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Can a Low-Gluten Diet Improve Your Health (even if you don’t have celiac disease)?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Professor Oluf Pedersen Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research University of Copenhagen

Dr. Pedersen

Professor Oluf Pedersen
Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research
University of Copenhagen

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: We focused our study on healthy people due to the world-wide bottom-up movement among healthy adults to live gluten-free or on a low-gluten diet.

Therefore, we undertook a randomised, controlled, cross-over trial involving 60 middle-aged healthy Danish adults with two eight week interventions comparing a low-gluten diet (2 g gluten per day) and a high-gluten diet (18 g gluten per day), separated by a washout period of at least six weeks with habitual diet (12 g gluten per day).

The two diets were balanced in number of calories and nutrients including the same total amount of dietary fibres. However, the composition of fibres differed markedly between the two diets.

When the low-gluten trend started years back the trend was without any scientific evidence for health benefits. Now we bring pieces of evidence that a low-gluten diet in healthy people may be related to improved intestinal wellbeing due to changes in the intestinal microbiota which to our surprise is NOT induced by gluten itself but by the concomitant change in the type of dietary fibres linked to a low-gluten intake.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response: Based on our observations of altered food fermentation patterns of the gut microbiome, we conclude that the effects of low-gluten dieting in healthy people is NOT due to reduced intake of gluten itself but rather to a change in dietary fibre composition by reducing fibres from wheat and rye and replacing them with fibres from vegetables, brown rice, corn, oat, quinoa and other non-gluten containg whole grain cereals.

In comparison with a high-gluten diet, a low-gluten, fibre-rich diet (other types but the same total amount) induces changes in the structure and function of the complex intestinal ecosystem of bacteria, reduces hydrogen exhalation, and leads to improvements in self-reported bloating and other intestinal comfort indicators. Moreover, during the 2 month of low-gluten dieting, the healthy individuals lost on overage 0.8 kg, likely due to increased body combustion (increased whole body thermogenesis) triggered by the altered gut bacterial functions eliciting increases in the plasma concentration of the gut hormone PYY, the fecal concentration of the microbial compound kynurenine and the concentration of the urine compound beta-amino-iso-butyric acid ( all three compounds are known to enhance thermogenesis. 

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: If they for some personal reasons prefer to stick to a low-gluten diet they can do it without expected adverse effects provided they eat high-fibre containing low-gluten products that are balanced in macro- and micronutrients.

However, most gluten-free food items available on the market today are massively deprived of dietary fibers and natural nutritional ingredients. Filled with additive and preservatives, sugars and unhealthy fats. Therefore, there is an obvious need for availability of fibre-enriched, nutritionally high-quality gluten-free food items which are freshly produced or minimally processed to consumers who prefer a low-gluten diet. Such initiatives may turn out to be key for alleviating gastro-intestinal discomfort and in addition to help facilitating weight control in the general population via modification of the gut microbiota.

Therefore, by now we think that our study is a  kind of wake-up call to the food industry and gourmet bakeries to produce a wide assortment of delicious non-wheat, non-rye wholegrain cereals (corn, brown rice, millet, buckwheat, quinoa, chia and gluten free oat) enriched with dietary fibres from vegetables (eg. carrots, squash), apple, psyllium seed husks, beans, chicory etc. You can bake the most healthy and most tasty bread, buns and pastries in this way. Innovations like this are highly needed for healthy people choosing a lifestyle with no gluten but associated with other types of dietary fibres, the microbial digestion of which cause less intestinal gas production and facilitate weight control . 

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: More long-term clinically studies are needed both in healthy individuals and in well-defined groups of  people suffering from gluten sensitivity, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn disease and ulcerative colitis. 


Lea B. S. Hansen, Henrik M. Roager, Nadja B. Søndertoft, Rikke J. Gøbel, Mette Kristensen, Mireia Vallès-Colomer, Sara Vieira-Silva, Sabine Ibrügger, Mads V. Lind, Rasmus B. Mærkedahl, Martin I. Bahl, Mia L. Madsen, Jesper Havelund, Gwen Falony, Inge Tetens, Trine Nielsen, Kristine H. Allin, Henrik L. Frandsen, Bolette Hartmann, Jens Juul Holst, Morten H. Sparholt, Jesper Holck, Andreas Blennow, Janne Marie Moll, Anne S. Meyer, Camilla Hoppe, Jørgen H. Poulsen, Vera Carvalho, Domenico Sagnelli, Marlene D. Dalgaard, Anders F. Christensen, Magnus Christian Lydolph, Alastair B. Ross, Silas Villas-Bôas, Susanne Brix, Thomas Sicheritz-Pontén, Karsten Buschard, Allan Linneberg, Jüri J. Rumessen, Claus T. Ekstrøm, Christian Ritz, Karsten Kristiansen, H. Bjørn Nielsen, Henrik Vestergaard, Nils J. Færgeman, Jeroen Raes, Hanne Frøkiær, Torben Hansen, Lotte Lauritzen, Ramneek Gupta, Tine Rask Licht, Oluf Pedersen. A low-gluten diet induces changes in the intestinal microbiome of healthy Danish adults. Nature Communications, 2018; 9 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-07019-x

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Last Updated on November 19, 2018 by Marie Benz MD FAAD