Science seen lacking for gluten free craze

by Josh Sosland
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NEW YORK – “There is no evidence to suggest that following a gluten-free diet has any significant benefits in the general population.” That is the finding of a study published in the September 2012 issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The study was written by Glenn A. Gaesser, a professor at Arizona State University, and Siddhartha S. Angadi, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Nursing. For those without celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, gluten-free dieting “may adversely affect gut health,” the authors concluded. Noting that gluten-free dieting has gained considerable popularity, they said additional research is needed to “clarify the health effects of gluten and potential consequences of avoiding gluten-containing grains.”

While no data have been published to support a weight loss claim for going gluten free, there are several studies of celiac patients that suggest body mass index status may deteriorate for those on a gluten-free diet.

The study also identifies a number of potential health benefits associated with gluten that could be imperiled on a gluten-free diet.

“Gluten-rich grains, especially wheat, may have health benefits attributable to naturally occurring fructan-type resistant starches as well as gluten itself,” Dr. Gaesser said. “By creating a healthy composition of colon bacteria, whole-grain wheat products may protect the gut from some cancers, inflammatory conditions, and cardiovascular disease. Gluten, and one of its component proteins gliadin, may contribute to blood pressure control and immune function. Because wheat is the main source of gluten in the American diet, these studies may help explain the consistent findings of health benefits of whole-grain consumption.”

Dr. Gaesser, who has been an outspoken critic of anti-carbohydrate dieting, is the advisory board chairman of the Grain Foods Foundation. He was engaged by the G.F.F. to review the scientific literature associated with gluten-free dieting.
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