The war on gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, is still happening with claims being made to suggest it is unnatural and detrimental to the human body.
A study conducted on nearly 1,000 Australian athletes found that a large majority of them were avoiding or completely abstaining from gluten because they self-diagnosed as having a gluten sensitivity.
Gluten-free diets were very popular among the athletic population even though it is estimated that only 5-10% of people would clinically benefit from going gluten-free.
Athletes seemed to believe that reducing or eliminating gluten intake would decrease the common gastrointestinal troubles that sometimes accompany intense exercise: bloating, cramps and diarrhea.
However, this selective diet choice is not backed by science. Consequently, researchers developed a double-blind randomized control trial: One of the most reputable ways of performing scientific research. This is also the way most drugs are tested for efficacy.
Researchers developed 2 identically tasting sports bars. The only difference: one was gluten-free; the other wasn’t.
For the first week, athletes consumed a completely gluten-free diet and then in the second week, consumed quite a heavy amount of gluten, courtesy of the sports bar. Because the study was “double-blinded”, neither the athletes nor the researchers knew whether or not an athlete was consuming gluten.
Although short-term and small (only 13 cyclists were studied), no significant differences in gastrointestinal problems, performance, well-being or intestinal inflammation were observed between the two groups.
Sorry guys, for most of us, going gluten-free is far from a panacea.
New York Times article