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How Gluten Feels About All This


Elective gluten free dieting is all the rage these days--as opposed to people with Celiac disease who have needed to avoid gluten all along to avoid a serious autoimmune reaction. But for the non-Celiac 99% of us, "gluten free" has become one of those dietary buzz words. In Los Angeles where I live, it has become something of a religion. I see gluten free bakeries pop up, and there are now gluten free sections of supermarkets. This is great for our Celiac brothers and sisters, but for everyone else, it gives the illusion of healthy choices when there is in fact no benefit to a gluten free diet if you don't have Celiac disease.

And this study published in the journal Gastroenterology found that people with self-diagnosed gluten sensitivity actually didn't feel any better when they were put unknowingly on diets without gluten. What this could mean is that the effects of gluten for non-Celiacs might be chalked up to placebo and nocebo effects. For those that swear they feel infinitely better when abstaining from glutenaceous (a word I just made up) foods, perhaps avoiding this particular protein leads you to make better food choices in general. But the researchers also point a finger at carbohydrates called fermentable oligo-di-monosaccharides and polyols, what acronym lovers call FODMAPs. We'll figure this all out, eventually, but for today, here's a comic to summarize:

And for an added bonus, here's a clip from Jimmy Kimmel in which his team found a few people in Los Angeles who proudly proclaim to be gluten free for all sorts of weird reasons but have no idea what gluten is, and in some cases what foods you can find it in. (Rice doesn't have gluten.)


The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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