Although maintaining a strict gluten-free diet is a lifelong necessity for allergy sufferers, nowadays, many people are choosing a low-gluten diet, even if they are not allergic to the substance of the diet. This trend has sparked public debate about whether low-gluten diets are recommended for people who are allergic. Researchers at the University of Copenhagen, among others, have analyzed just that. The findings were reported in the journal Nature Communications.
In an intervention study of healthy Danish adults, an international team of scientists shows that a low-fiber, high-fiber diet alters the community of intestinal bacteria and decreases gastrointestinal discomfort such as bloating and is linked to modest loss of Weight. Changes in bowel comfort and body weight are related to changes in the composition and function of intestinal bacteria.
"We have shown that in comparison to a diet rich in gluten, a diet rich in fiber and low gluten induces changes in the structure and function of the complex intestinal ecosystem of bacteria, reduces hydrogen exhalation and leads to improvements in self-report swelling. In addition, we observe a modest weight loss, probably due to increased body combustion triggered by the altered bacterial functions of the gut, "explained the study's lead investigator, Professor Oluf Pedersen.
Change in dietary fiber composition appears to be the cause
The researchers conducted a randomized, controlled, cross-over study involving 60 healthy middle-aged Danish adults with two eight-week interventions comparing a low-gluten diet (2 g of gluten per day) and a diet rich in gluten (18 g gluten per day). ), separated by a washout period of at least six weeks with usual diet (12 g of gluten per day).
Both diets were balanced in number of calories and nutrients, including the same amount of dietary fiber. However, the composition of the fibers differed markedly between the two diets.
Based on their observations of altered food fermentation patterns of the intestinal bacteria, the researchers concluded that the effects of the low-gluten diet in healthy people may not be due primarily to reduced gluten intake, but to a composition of dietary fiber. wheat and rye fibers and replacing them with vegetable fibers, brown rice, corn, oats and quinoa.
No basis for dietary recommendation change yet
A low-gluten diet has previously been proposed to decrease gastrointestinal symptoms in patients with inflammatory bowel diseases and irritable bowel syndrome, disorders that occur in up to 20% of the general population of the West. The present study suggests that even some healthy individuals may prefer a low-gluten diet to combat intestinal discomfort or excess body weight.
"More long-term studies are definitely needed before any public health council can be given to the general population. Especially since we think that dietary fiber – not the absence of gluten alone – is the main cause of changes in bowel discomfort and body weight. So far, we think our study is a warning to the food industry. Gluten-free may not necessarily be the healthy choice that many people think it is, "Pedersen said.
"Most of the gluten-free foods available on the market today are massively deprived of dietary fiber and natural nutritional ingredients. Therefore, there is an obvious need for availability of high quality, nutritionally-enriched, gluten-free foods that are fresh or minimally processed for consumers who prefer a low-gluten diet. Such initiatives may be instrumental in relieving gastrointestinal discomfort and, in addition to helping to facilitate weight control in the general population, by modifying the intestinal microbiota, "he concluded.
First published: November 17, 2018 3:08 PM IST