If you sat down doctors and nutrition experts somewhere around the turn of the century and told them that we’d be fighting over whether or not gluten, one of the most common proteins in the world, was good for you, they’d never have bought it. And yet here we are: Cafes are demanding doctors notes before serving gluten-free food, pizza chains spend millions trying and failing to get the gluten out of their crusts, and lifestyle gurus and comedians spar over who can be more obnoxious about the whole issue. But, in the midst of all this, some fascinating dietary science is emerging.
We already know that gluten doesn’t deserve the bad rap it gets from the David Avocado Wolfes of the world, because even the scientist who touched all this off went back and proved he was wrong. It wasn’t ever gluten but a family of molecules called FODMAPs that caused the problems. While there are, in fact, people who are allergic to gluten, they’re extremely rare. So why do some people feel better when they stop eating gluten?
In some cases, it’s the placebo effect, but in others, there are measurable medical results. Now research reveals that it might be because of fructan.
Fructan, a sugar molecule that turns up in wheat, barley and other grains (with rice as a notable exception) is fairly common, pretty much everywhere, and, according to new research, might be making you fart. Researchers put 59 people who self-reported a gluten sensitivity on a diet that contained either high measures of gluten, high doses of fructan, or neither, and tracked how they felt. The results?
In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study of individuals with self-reported non-celiac gluten sensitivity, we found fructans to induce symptoms, measured by the gastrointestinal symptom rating scale…
Granted, this is a small sample, and therefore not a bulletproof statement. But it’s extremely interesting. Our knowledge of what we put in our stomachs is far from complete, and how we digest it, even less so. We’re just beginning to understand the importance of our gut bacteria in how we digest food and store the results, let alone how our bodies as a system try to keep us at a certain weight and even fight our attempts at weight loss. What we call “gluten sensitivity” now may turn out instead to just be the start of a far more complicated journey into understanding exactly what we eat, and what our bodies do with it.