Gluten Sensitivity May Not Actually Exist

Those who follow gluten-free diets usually come in one of three types: those who have celiac disease, those who have some other gluten intolerance, and those who have jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon. Now new research is indicating that second type may not exist.

Peter Gibson M.D., professor of gastroenterology at Monash University and director of the GI Unit at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, published a study in 2011 that became the go-to study about non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). In his work, he stated gluten, which is found in grains like wheat, rye, and barley, can cause gastrointestinal distress in patients without celiac disease.

His work lent credibility to the up-and-coming gluten-free diet craze. Recent surveys show 30 percent of Americans want to eat less gluten, regardless of any gluten intolerance they may have.

Though Gibson’s work helped bring gluten-free diets into the spotlight, he wanted to take another look at his research. His first study gave no indication of what actually caused an adverse reaction to gluten, so he decided to re-do his initial trial under far stricter conditions.

Subjects participating in the study had every meal provided for them for the duration of the study. In addition to closely monitoring what the subjects ate, Gibson had any potential dietary triggers for gastrointestinal symptoms removed from their diets as well. The meals were removed of any lactose, preservatives like benzoates, propionate, sulfites, and nitrites, and fermentable, poorly absorbed short-chain carbohydrates (FODMAPs).

All 37 subjects in the study self-reported gluten insensitivity and were confirmed to not have celiac disease. First, the subjects were given a diet low in FODMAPs for two weeks. Then, they were given one of three diets for a week. The three diets given contained 16 grams of added gluten (high-gluten), 2 grams of added gluten and 14 grams of whey protein isolate (low-gluten), or 16 grams of whey protein isolate (placebo). Every subject had every diet, and none knew which they were eating which week.

Gibson found, after looking at the data, that subjects reported a worsening of their gastrointestinal symptoms to similar degrees whether their diets included gluten or not. He concluded the data indicated a nocebo effect. The subjects reported the symptoms because they expected the reaction, not because the food they ate caused the symptoms.

Because of this, Gibson reversed his stance from his original study saying, “In contrast to our first study … we could find absolutely no specific response to gluten.”


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Janice Thompson
Janice Thompson3 years ago

With all the chemicals in this world, it stands to reason that some will be sensitive to it.

Elena T.
Elena Poensgen3 years ago

Thank you :)

Theresa K.
Theresa K3 years ago

Russell L. -- I'm overweight and only eat meat three times a week, and it's always organic, grass fed, free range chicken. Not all fat people suck down cow by the truckload. Way to be a jerk :D

Russell L.
Russell L3 years ago

All this stupid gluten free shit is, is a excuse for fat people to shove their face with as much meat as they can. Because gluten is wheat protein. What meat centric diet will they come up with next for all the dummies to follow? OH wait there already is one, paleo. Sick stupid humans we are. Killing and eating every poor animal with out thought of all the suffering. All because we can't get our lazy fat ass of the couch!

Robyn Rae
YOLANDA H3 years ago


Camilla Vaga
Camilla Vaga3 years ago


Debrah Roemisch
Debrah Roemisch3 years ago

first this study was of 37 people which means it is statistically too small to mean anything except maybe a need for further study. And worse they used whey protein isolate as the so called placebo! People who have digestive problems of course are going to react to that nearly indigestible partial food--I know I would. Do your own study of yourself--an elimination diet and keep a food diary. I got started on wheat free 25 years ago then gluten free 12 years ago long before it was well known and challenged myself a few times. It is not worth it to me to eat gluten containing foods. Why would anyone do this as a "fad"? Doesn't make any sense as it is difficult to follow and you have to give up yummy foods! I will agree that the gluten free junk foods that are proliferating are a fad--those of us who are gluten intolerant and want to be healthy simply eat vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains such as millet and quinoa, and free range animal products! I see some of these junk foods and they are filled with simple starches such as potato or corn starch which also make me sick and simple sugars which are not good for anyone.

Elisha S.
Elisha S3 years ago

I think the nocebo is the problem. I started my dog on a gluten free diet and she stopped eating her feet.

Brett McGinnis
Brett McGinnis3 years ago


Monika Ka
Monika K3 years ago