Oh gluten, the least trendy protein of our time. As gluten-free has transcended science and exploded into diet fad, scientists increasingly suspect that gluten intolerance—apart from actual celiac disease—doesn't exist at all. The true culprit could be a group of carbohydrates, including one in wheat called fructan.
A new story from NPR's Eliza Barclay does an impressive job of summarizing the recent history of gluten research, which you can be forgiven for finding confusing. In fact, Peter Gibson, the very professor behind the first study with major evidence of non-celiac gluten intolerance, published a paper in 2013 that debunked his earlier study. That's right, the guy who first came up with gluten intolerance has reversed course.
But where are these "gluten intolerance" symptoms—pain, nausea, bloating—coming from if not gluten? Gibson's 2013 study also put patients on a diet low in FODMAPs, or a group of carbohydrates called fermentable oligo-di-monosaccharides and polyols. Gluten-free diets didn't help these patients, but a low FODMAP diet did.
Now FODMAPs is a real mouthful, so here's what the group of carbohydrates include. In wheat, the predominant FODMAP is fructan, but it's found in other foods, too. "FODMAPs include fructose (found in some fruit), lactose (found in some dairy products) and galactans (found in some legumes)," writes to Barclay.
Gluten sensitivity may not have to do with gluten, but it may not totally be a nocebo affect either. "FODMAP-free," though, doesn't really roll off the tongue. [NPR]