Wherefore Wheat Avoidance?
Gluten-free foods are all the rage now. But one has to wonder, where’s the evidence that such a restrictive diet is beneficial? Given all the hype, gluten must be doing terrible things to people’s health. Right?
Not so much. Unless you are among the roughly two percent of the population who suffer from celiac disease, or verifiable gluten intolerance, there’s scant reliable evidence that going gluten-free is necessary, or even particularly helpful. In fact, evidence shows that consumption of whole grains—including whole-grain wheat—is “undoubtedly good for health and given [its] multiple beneficial aspects could easily be described as a superfood,” said Senior Research Fellow, Rob Lillywhite, of Warwick University, England, in a recent press release.
Whole grains, including whole wheat, provide multiple nutritional benefits. They’re an excellent source of dietary fiber, antioxidant nutrients, minerals, lignans, and phenolic compounds. Some of these have been linked to a reduced risk of cancer. Lillywhite argues that whole grains may actually be better for you that some “superfood” vegetables and fruits, “…since they have multiple modes of action and provide both short- and long-term health benefits.”
Components in whole grains may work synergistically together—providing health benefits that exceed the sum of their individual parts. Evidence suggests that whole grain consumption is linked to better bowel health, a reduced risk of colon cancer, inflammation, and other illnesses. They may even bolster immune function.
Lillywhite and his team speculate that rising health problems in industrialized countries reflect not increased consumption of whole grains, such as wheat, but rising consumption of highly processed and refined foods. People who lose weight or feel better after switching temporarily to the gluten-free lifestyle may actually be benefitting not from gluten avoidance, but reduced consumption of simple carbohydrates in general.
What has been your own experience? Are you trying to live the gluten-free lifestyle? I’d love to hear your thoughts about going gluten-free.
University of Warwick. "Wheat in diet: Study on health impact of wheat challenges Stone Age myths and costly diets, providing you go whole grain." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 November 2014.