So, maybe the whole gluten thing is a bit overstated

In the interest of fairness and balance, we’ll pass on news that the scientist behind one of the main studies arguing for the existence of gluten intolerance now has done a follow-up study that calls into question his earlier findings.

Such follow-up studies are pretty standard, at least among serious-minded scientists. (It’s the rest of us who take one study and blow it out of proportion.)

There’s a good bit of coverage of this today. This Forbes piece seems a pretty solid one:

In 2011, Peter Gibson, a professor of gastroenterology at Monash University and director of the GI Unit at The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, published a study that found gluten, a protein found in grains like wheat, rye, and barley, to cause gastrointestinal distress in patients without celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder unequivocally triggered by gluten. Double-blinded, randomized, and placebo-controlled, the experiment was one of the strongest pieces of evidence to date that non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), more commonly known as gluten intolerance, is a genuine condition.


37 subjects took part, all with self-reported gluten sensitivity who were confirmed to not have celiac’s disease. They were first fed a diet low in FODMAPs for two weeks, then were given one of three diets for a week with either 16 grams per day of added gluten (high-gluten), 2 grams of gluten and 14 grams of whey protein isolate (low-gluten), or 16 grams of whey protein isolate (placebo). Each subject shuffled through every single diet so that they could serve as their own controls, and none ever knew what specific diet he or she was eating. After the main experiment, a second was conducted to ensure that the whey protein placebo was suitable. In this one, 22 of the original subjects shuffled through three different diets — 16 grams of added gluten, 16 grams of added whey protein isolate, or the baseline diet — for three days each.

Analyzing the data, Gibson found that each treatment diet, whether it included gluten or not, prompted subjects to report a worsening of gastrointestinal symptoms to similar degrees. Reported pain, bloating, nausea, and gas all increased over the baseline low-FODMAP diet. Even in the second experiment,when the placebo diet was identical to the baseline diet, subjects reported a worsening of symptoms!


“In contrast to our first study… we could find absolutely no specific response to gluten.”

The Forbes piece notes, rightly, that gluten-free products have become a multi-billion dollar industry, and that the whole market seems to be driven more by consumers and smart marketers than any actual, you know, science.

We’d disagree with that, a bit. And we can only attest to what we’ve found by experimenting, if you will, on ourselves. Wheat products do seem to produce the symptoms that William Davis, the author of “Wheat Belly,” describes (and which we cover pretty extensively at the link to the right about the Yogi Diet.)

We feel better avoiding hybridized wheat, which is what you get in the U.S. And we feel a lot better passing on processed foods.

But results may vary, which I think is one conclusion we can draw from this study. So follow what works for you — not some silly fad.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

3 thoughts on “So, maybe the whole gluten thing is a bit overstated”

  1. Worth mentioning that FODMAPS, a fancy acronym for certain kinds of carbohydrate, are something contained in wheat, so just because it might not be the gluten causing the problem doesn’t mean wheat works for everybody.

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