So let’s begin by saying that Celiac disease is a disorder in which eating gluten triggers an immune response in the body, causing inflammation and damage to the small intestine. This affects about 1% of people in the Uk ….. 1%. So why is this even a nutritional myth?
Well, I’ll you why! Some people may have a sensitivity to gluten but that doesn’t mean they have Celiac disease. Furthermore there are a huge array of other factors that might also be affecting this person other it being solely gluten at fault here. In a study by Biesiekierski et al. (2013), Self-reported non-celiac gluten-sensitive patients followed a low FODMAP diet ( a diet low in fermented carbs that can cause issues in the gut and intestines) for 2 weeks. Then received a high-gluten (16g gluten/day), low gluten (2g gluten/day) or control diet for 1 week. The findings were that the Low FODMAP diet improved IBS symptoms but NO effect of gluten. What we have here is that the high Gluten and low Gluten intakes had no negative effect on them. Interesting!
What about Gluten and weight loss?
There also seems to be a line of thinking that Gluten somehow interferes with weight loss too. Well in Celiac patients, the opposite seems to be true. A Gluten-Free treatment diet significantly increased body fat stores – Capristo et al. (2000). ‘Of patients compliant with a gluten-free diet, 81% had gained weight after 2 yrs’ – Dickey & Kearney (2006)
So essentially this is a myth that Internet Gurus have used to sound clever. Unfortunately due to anecdotal reports like “I cut out gluten and feel better/I could lose weight” the myth continues to be a thing. Note: junk foods contain gluten so if you cut out the gluten and therefore junk food, guess what? You start to feel pretty good!
Anyway there is plenty of research out there to refute it but the biggest one is energy balance and laws of thermodynamics
Cutting out gluten often leads to a reduction in energy intake (weight loss) & improved GI symptoms (improved dietary quality or cutting out suspect foods e.g. FODMAPS). There is no direct effect of gluten.