A few years ago there was almost no such thing as “gluten free”. Recently though, little gluten free signs can be found everywhere from the supermarket to your favourite cafe. And we humans are simple creatures, when we start seeing lots of signs boasting that their foods are gluten free, we start wanting things that are gluten free.
Our funny human brains just want to follow the trend. What? Jessica Alba has gone gluten free? I have to go gluten free too! We don’t tend to ask too many questions, after all the cafes wouldn’t make gluten free brownies if people didn’t want them right? Well I’m people, I want them!
There is a reason for the surge of gluten free products on our shelves though, and that is celiac disease. This is a genetic disorder that you inherit from your mum or dad (thanks guys) which makes your intestine super sensitive to gluten. This means that your body can’t deal with gluten and instead you have all sorts of nasty reactions to the stuff. You might have diarrhoea, anaemia or feel very tired all the time. Luckily for you if you think you might have the disease all you have to do is visit your lovely doctor and they will run some tests to see if you do.
If you are celiac then a gluten free life is essential to be a happy chappy, but what if you aren’t? Are there health benefits of cutting out gluten even if your gut is able to process it?
The simple answer is not really, no.
Even though it’s super easy to Google up hundreds of the health claims for being gluten free, there is actually very little scientific evidence to back them up.
This study, aptly titled; Gluten-Free Diet: Imprudent Dietary Advice for the General Population?” looks into just that. It asks whether a gluten free diet really is a good idea for the everyday, healthy public. Their answer is no, and they have a bunch of reasons to back this up.
Going gluten free won’t help you lose weight: The study points out that there is actually no published research showing that cutting out gluten will help you lose weight. It did find though, that in studies on celiac people who switched to a gluten free diet it has been found that the switch might actually cause weight gain. A high proportion of obese celiac patients who changed to a gluten free diet actually gained weight. Not good news for those looking for a dieting option.
Gluten is good for your gut: People who have celiacs disease have bad gut reactions when they eat gluten. However healthy poeple actually need gluten to have a healthy gut, who’d have thought? The study looked at lots of research which shows that gluten is a vital chemical that you need for all sorts of health reasons like immune function, lipid metabolism and vitamin absorption. It has even been found that a gluten free diet might reduce the amount of good bacteria in your gut, which is exactly what was also found in this study. Those little guys are helping us out and we want all the good bacteria we can get.
Plus there are other health benefits of gluten: The study also looked at how gluten can improve your health. Turns out the stuff can help lower your blood pressure ad boost your immune system as well as improving your blood lipid levels, yay!
Moral of the gluten story? If eating anything with gluten in it makes you feel a bit sick, go to the doctor and get him to test you for intolerance. If it doesn’t, keep eating it! Going gluten free won’t make you magically skinnier, more energetic or have a superhuman sense of smell. In fact not eating gluten might make you more likely to get sick and farty. No one wants to be farty.