Australian Study: Gluten Intolerance May Not Even Exist

Being gluten free is dumb because gluten intolerance may not even exist

If you have coeliac, this obviously doesn't apply to you. Don't eat gluten. But if you don't have coeliac -- and that's 99% of the human population, mind you -- there's no reason to be gluten free. You're wasting your time. Even the Australian scientist who started this gluten-free craze now thinks it's possibly all placebo.

Peter Gibson, a professor of gastroenterology at Monash University and director of the GI Unit at The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, conducted an experiment in 2011 that linked gluten to screwing with people's gastrointestinal distress. That published paper has served as one of the strongest pieces of evidence for the non-coeliac gluten sensitivity that everybody suddenly developed existing.

But Gibson wanted to repeat the experiment and see if he would reach the same conclusion. He couldn't. According to Real Clear Science, Gibson had subjects with 'gluten intolerance' but weren't coeliac take part in an experiment that fed them a high gluten, normal gluten, low gluten and placebo diet for a week and found that there was "absolutely no specific response to gluten."

Is Gluten Actually Bad For You?

From gluten-free whole grain bread to gluten-free beer to gluten-free Betty Crocker chocolate brownie mix, the market for food items without gluten has exploded over the past decade. But is gluten all that bad for you? Should a normal person avoid gluten in their diet? What’s the deal with the gluten?

Giz Explains: Why You Might Want To Rethink Going Gluten-Free

Going gluten-free is all the rage these days. It’s the diet of choice for Hollywood starlets and health nuts alike; supermarket aisles are packed full of products touting their lack of the stretchy protein.

But for a lot of people, the gluten-free lifestyle may do more harm than good.

What happened was that everybody reported pain, bloating, nausea and gas to similar degrees. No matter what they ate -- gluten or placebo -- they felt sick. The problem wasn't with gluten, it was with their brains. Basically, it's the nocebo effect. People psych themselves out and start believing they're sick.

And it makes sense, ASAP Science explains in this video how gluten is simply a combination of proteins that isn't toxic for you whatsoever:

So. As true as it's always been: If you have coeliac, don't eat gluten. If you don't, just eat it.

WATCH MORE: Science & Health News


    The gluten sensitivity craze is actually pretty fantastic for coeliacs because it has opened up GF availability massively. Between GF sections at Woolies and Coles, GF labeling/options at cafes and restaurants, a much wider understanding of gluten and GF in service industries, etc. For coeliacs like my partner, it's well worth the hipster/trend diet annoyances.

      x2 on this, I know a few people who can't eat gluten without shitting their pants, and if more people want to get on the bandwagon because it's a fad, it gives them a lot more options to eat than they used to have.

      Hell most restaurants have better gluten free options these days than vegetarian.

        Steak is gluten free by default! YAAY

          Sauces and seasoning aren't though, still have to check!

            Yeah, the restaurant default of using wheat flour in sauces is desperately in need of fixing. Why not use cornflour or tapioca starch instead and make sure everyone's happy? Lazy bloody cooks...

              If it's only for 1% of the whole population though that precaution for all food is extreme

              It's called a roux. Using flour is the correct and best way to make this. It's not lazy to do things correctly. Not everyone thinks a "gluten intolerance" makes you the center of the universe. Stay home and make your own damn soups and sauces. But don't expect them to taste as good.

                Actually, Gluten Free flour will give the exact same result, in taste, texture & cooking method as normal flour (better, in fact, as you don't have to spend ages waiting for the gluten to break down before adding your fluid). Just saying....

              Because using anything else would change the flavour and texture of the roux.

          A roast dinner is generally safe unless you use stuffing. (Meat - check, potatoes, pumpkin, beans and so on - check.) Need to be careful about sauces however. Even most soy sauce has gluten in it.

          The threshold amount to trigger a coeliac reaction is vanishingly low, on the order of 5-6 micrograms. Think of an object a cubic millimetre on a side then cut that object into five on each side. That's how much gluten can trigger a reaction. My coeliac brother doesn't eat out or order in at all because most restaurants just don't take sufficient care.

          The GF boom is very useful to hose of us with coeliac relatives for that reason. Unfortunately he also reacts badly to several other substances (notably fructose, lactose and the silicates found in onions, garlic and some other foods) which limits things a bit further.

          However the secondary reaction isn't autoimmune so the effects are relatively mild; these days he's resumed eating the items to which he's secondarily sensitive but in limited quantities.

      Yeah, I agree to a certain extent. The main problem with the GF labelling/options at cafes is the preparation, the amount of times we have had to explain that they can't use the same toaster for GF bread at cafes is worrying.

        +1 I'm coeliac and even when telling wait staff this, they still ask me "if a small quantity of gluten is ok?".

      I have a coeliac friend who wont eat GF options at restaurants, because if the preparation stuff has been used for non-GF food, they will still get a reaction, as their sensitivity is so high. I'm sure the nocebo effect could apply equally for coeliacs in some senarios, but I'd be interested in other coeliacs report this level of safety too, and if it applies to supermarket purchases, also.

        I have that level of sensitivity. Every time I react to food eaten at a restaurant it's more like a blind test though as I was always convinced it was gluten free ! I think it's just really difficult to take the right level of care in a busy restaurant kitchen.

        I have never reacted to supermarket foods that are packaged and marked as gluten free though.

      My daughter is coeliac and I never really understood why I had gut problems my whole life. Turns out after watching an episode of landline and a csiro reasercher that 1 in 7 Australians has irritable bowel syndrome and most people get a benefit from gluten free food because they are low in fructans (a fermentable sugar) found in modern cereals. Old wheats like spelt found in the pyramids are low in gluten and fructans and IBS sufferers had good tolerance for gluten free or low fructan wheat. Lactose, fructose etc sugars all ferment in the bowel given the right gut yeast. Checkout low fodmap diets.

        I ended up watching the Landline video; honestly it seems more like correlation than causation. I'm not doubting that low fructans are less likely to irritate your bowels; that's a pretty well documented case. I just can't see the causality between wheats and fructans; they're pretty essential to wheat.

        After some further investigation I found the following:
        "Fructans were measured in a range of breads using selective enzymic hydrolysis and spectrophotometry based on the AOAC 999.03 method. The breads generally contained low quantities of fructan (0.61–1.94 g/100 g), with rye bread being the richest source (1.94 g/100 g). Surprisingly, gluten-free bread contained similar quantities of fructan (1.00 g/100 g) as other breads. There was wide variation in fructan content between individual brands of granary (0.76–1.09 g/100 g) and gluten-free breads (0.36–1.79 g/100 g). Although they contain only low quantities of fructan, the widespread consumption of bread may make a significant contribution to fructan intakes."

        Further building on this it seems that Garlic and Onion both have over 5x the Fructan content of bread. Which indicates (assuming Fructan is the main/only factor) that your much more likely to get an irritable bowel consuming any dish containing garlic or onions than a slice or two of bread.

        Garlic 17.4%[7]
        Onion 1.1-10.1%[5]
        Rye (bran) 7%[8]
        Rye (grain) 4.6-6.6%[8]
        Wheat bread (white) 0.7-2.8%[5]
        Wheat flour 1-4%[6]
        Wheat pasta 1-4%[5]

    If something is a mega fad with lots of support from known idiots, while not having almost no documented science, there's almost always nothing to it.
    Food is full hysteria.

      For a moment there I thought you were talking MT-NBN.

      Last edited 16/05/14 1:00 pm

      While not having almost no? so it does have lots of documented science?

        No, the science is very week. There is no documented mechanism, it's just inference.

          I was more mocking your double negative, but okay.

            This is entirely pointless.

              It's not pointless when you call someone else an idiot and say you are "very careful to add subtleties" when you clearly aren't

                I didn't call anyone an idiot, I said "support from known idiots" in the context of how to judge the veracity of mega fads.
                I didn't mean to be offensive. Personally I'd consider it good advice to avoid being fooled by things like the gluten free fad in future. These crazes come and go constantly; vitamin mega-dosing, echinacea, anti-vax etc. The traits I mentioned in my initial post tend to be a common feature.

      You're right only known idiots have info supporting this fad, know idiots like Harvard Medical while the jury is out there have definitely been more studies on the topic than just Peter Gibson.

        I said "support from known idiots", not "only", and "almost no documented science", I am very careful to add subtleties like that, even that study is very thin from what it says in the outline, it only outlines the types of examples that fit into the indeterminate symptoms that get lumped into the Gluten sensitivity bucket without any known mechanism.

          You are very careful to add subtleties but you clearly wrote a double negative.. LOL okay, whatever you say.

    This brought to you by the AWB.

      Yes the results etc would need to be very heavily scrutinised for such a conclusion. Otherwise it sounds like the AWB trying to arrest a slide.

    The study is majorly flawed. The conclusion states itself that the subject did not know which diet they were receiving AND that their psychological state could cause the nocebo effect.

    Doesn't that in itself render the possibility ALL subjects were potentially affected by nocebo and that masked real reaction results?

    In addition to the blind tests, he should have run non-blind tests.

      Not at all. Non-blind tests for this would be useless seeing as the effects are all in the mind anyway. If it was non-blinded those that thought they were sensitive would've had the reaction to the gluten food and would not have had it to the non-gluten food. That's how this effect works.

        Agree, the gold standard with this sort of thing is the double-blind test where neither the people being tested nor the people administering the tests know which samples have gluten. According to the original article, that's how this test was run.

        The nocebo effect IS psychological - that's more or less the point. The experiment demonstrates that the people who thought they were sensitive showed symptoms even when not eating any gluten - in other words their reaction was not to the gluten, but to the *perception* of gluten. The people in the experiment reported symptoms getting worse with each change in diet, even when the change was from the diet with gluten to the diet without gluten.

        The article also points out that most of the participants benefited (reduced symptoms) from a reduced FODMAP diet and concludes that it's probably the FODMAPs (which tend to be higher in foods with gluten) that actually cause the problem.

    I've been GF for about 3 years - it was just isolating foods to see if it made a difference to my health - since not eating it I have had barely any migraines, I don't think any blood noses, and lets just say I have a lot shorter and easier trips to the toilet.

    I never bothered to get diagnosed, just recently had a blood test which didn't show up any signs of coeliac, but last time I ate something with gluten in it (I didn't realise until I went and checked much later after thinking about it) I got headaches almost immediately, felt super lethargic and like a bit stoned, and my wife said I looked awful lol.

    I am also a tight ass and LOVED bakery food, the last thing I want to be is going GF, but it worked for me. If it turned out it was a placebo, well, I still haven't had headaches blood noses or horrid experiences with toilets for 3 years so whatevs lol, just wish I knew a way I could trick my body into feeling this way when I eat it if that's the case!

      Same here. I jumped on the gluten free thing a couple of years ago and felt a lot better for it. Now, if I have gluten, I'll gas up and react much worse than before. However, I'm open to the fact that it could be something closely associated to wheat that causes the reaction (like small chain carbs). Or my better digestion may be due to the decrease in fibre which may have been causing my gut bacteria to be too active.

      But for now, avoiding food with wheat has radically improved my life and I'm glad to stick to it, even if I must seem like a dreaded hipster amongst my gizmodo friends.

      Last edited 16/05/14 5:29 pm

    hahahahaha... just rubbed this into all the "gluten Free" Co-workers i have who are eating their cardboard bread while i eat my Sammich :)

    My partner isn't a coeliac but she is definitely intolerant of gluten, in particular her digestive system "cramps" if she has any.
    Ive personally tried avoiding gluten and like others here, Ive certainly felt better for it, less bloated and sluggish after a meal. I also lost quite a bit of weight (not from just avoiding gluten but adopting a healthier lifestyle and exercise) so Im certainly one that can see the merits of a Gluten Free lifestyle.
    I also think eating organic where possible and the Paleo lifestyle make sense.
    Its a topic thats worth talking to a good naturopath about as they'll explain how the cells react and interact with each other based on the proteins, minerals, vitamins etc, that are going into your body, its quite fascinating stuff!
    In summary, I still can't get enough of a fresh house baked loaf of bread with butter!! YUM!!

      Actually another double bind study recently found that "organic" food caused no perceptible improvement in cancer levels - in fact there was a slight (3%) but statistically insignificant INCREASE in cancer levels from organic foods. (To repeat, the increase was statistically significant and should should be ignored.) On the other hand, studies on the Paleo diet have, broadly speaking, found it to be beneficial.

      By all means eat healthily but I have yet to be convinced that there is such a thing as a "good naturopath".

      To quote Wikipedia (admittedly itself a dubious source): `Much of the ideology and methodological underpinnings of naturopathy are in conflict with the paradigm of evidence-based medicine. Many naturopaths have opposed vaccination based in part on the early views that shaped the profession. According to the American Cancer Society, "scientific evidence does not support claims that naturopathic medicine can cure cancer or any other disease, since virtually no studies on naturopathy as a whole have been published."'

      (Is the house baked bread that you mention gluten free? I assume so.)

        There are definitely good naturopaths! I learn far more from a 30 minute conversation with a naturopath about how our bodies actually work and function internally (that reflects externally) than Ive ever learnt from a doctor in my 30+ years on this earth.

        Cell formation and health, allergens, thyroid function, sleep cycles, hormone release, liver function and detoxification, neural pathways, etc, a naturopath who really indulges in the science of the human body is an incredible practitioner to talk to. Of course there are the "hippy free spirited" types and I can understand why naturopaths aren't taken all that seriously.

        I could say the same thing that Im yet to be convinced that there is such as thing as a good doctor! Then again, Ive never been in the position (thankfully) where Ive really needed a good doctor. Most GP's present themselves as average health professionals at best (as far as Im concerned, plus what can you really understand about a patient in 10-15 mins before they push you out the door for the next one?)

        Your source for the double blind study is? Ive no doubt that levels of cancer are increased, more to do with our environment, than the food we put in our mouths. Nevertheless, IMHO, organic food tastes better, is better for our environment and without a doubt, better for ourselves.

        In response to the bread... No. Im not gluten intolerant so its old school bread and butter for me!!

        [PS Im an IT nerd, not a health professional, but I do know a couple of naturopaths who are brilliant minds]

    I know that whenever I eat anything made with strong flour, I get very bad indigestion and stomach cramps. Bread and cakes are fine and small amounts of pasta are OK but any pastry like a pie or vanilla slice and I'm gona have a bad day.

      The findings here should please you then because it's likely there is some other cause other than gluten being the culprit.

    My wife is sensitive to gluten but not a coeliac. A slice of normal bread will have her going to the toilet with the runs for days. Since going GF she's been a hell of a lot better. Thankfully she can still drink beer. Though for ceoliac's, O'Briens Beer is great as it is made by a ceoliac after he found out he couldn't drink normal beer anymore.

    Another fun useful fact is that glucose derived from wheat will not set off a ceoliac (confirmed by a ceoliac at work who told me this), so certain things that say they contain wheat actually aren't a problem.

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