Should I go gluten free?

Is there any health benefit to going gluten free if you're not gluten intolerant?
16 January 2018


Field of wheat crops



Is there any health benefit to going gluten free if you're not gluten intolerant?



Is there any health benefit to going gluten free if you're not gluten intolerant? Sian Porter set the record straight for Chris Smith...

Sian - well, thanks Emma that’s a very popular one. No.  In fact gluten is a protein you find in grass related things like wheat, barley, rye, and oats. What it does it provides like a viscous - elastic network to give structure to those things. About 1% of the population suffers from coeliac disease, which is an immune disease which means they can’t tolerate gluten. We think about 6% of people might have what we call non-coeliac gluten intolerance, so they have the similar symptoms.

If you think about a lot of our diet can be wheat based, and say people may be having a cereal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and pasta for dinner. There is this theory that perhaps there’s a threshold, and the best way I would say for a healthy diet is to mix your carbs so have potatoes, rice, pasta to have have a variety. You get plenty of gluten free foods now  but they're not necessarily more healthy.

Chris - And also they’re not very tasty.

Sian - No. Because if they’re missing that structure then they’ll have to adapt the recipe. They can be high in fat, sugar, salt. They can be low in fibre, low in protein and research has shown that often people who are avoiding gluten are then adding less healthy choices maybe like cakes and biscuits more into their diet.

Chris - Can I just ask; what portion of people think they have gluten intolerance and what proportion, if we go and test the population, really do have it?

Sian - There’s various studies that have looked at this, but a figure that’s quite often quoted is about 30% of people think that they have some kind of allergy intolerance but, actually, when it comes down to it it’s probably somewhere between 1 to 6%. People forget that if you take symptoms like bloating. If you think about a meal that you’ve eaten on a plate that foods got to go somewhere so it will go in your stomach. If you think about when your stomachs relaxed and then you’re putting food in it. It’s normal parts of digestion that people seem to have forgotten and also things like lack of fibre can produce gasterous symptoms. So I think it maybe things that should generally people are misinterpreting.

The other interesting thing that’s coming along is something called FODMAPs, which is Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols which are types of carbohydrate which do get fermented in the large bowel and can produce problems in some people. If people want to follow a FODMAP diet you can’t do it lightly. Go and see a dietician but yes it’s something that can be very useful for people and IBS and improves symptoms in about 75% of people, but you have to follow it properly.



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