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No reason to recommend a low-gluten diet for everyone

Thursday 15 Nov 18

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Tine Rask Licht
Professor, Head of Research Group
National Food Institute
+45 35 88 71 86

Large study of the effects of eating a low-gluten diet has not prompted the researchers behind it to recommend that people eat a gluten-free diet—unless they suffer from coeliac disease or gluten intolerance.    

Eating a diet that contains less or no gluten has become increasingly popular among consumers both in Denmark and internationally. A large study conducted by an international team of scientists—including scientists from the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark—has studied the effect of eating a low-gluten diet.

During two periods, the 60 participants in the study had to eat a diet containing more gluten than an average diet and a gluten-free diet. As far as possible, both types of diet had the same amount of calories, nutrients and dietary fibre. 

The participants felt less bloated and more comfortable when eating the gluten-low diet. However, the researchers point out that the primary cause is most likely a different composition of dietary fibre and not the absence of gluten. Therefore, the study itself has not prompted the researchers to recommend that people eat a gluten-free diet—unless they suffer from coeliac disease or gluten intolerance.

A comprehensive strategic cooperation

The study was carried out by the now defunct Strategic Research Center, Gut, Grain and Greens (3G), which was headed by the National Food Institute. The Center has brought together some of the leading researchers in the field from Denmark and internationally, including DTU Bioengineering, DTU Chemical Engineering, University of Copenhagen, and KU Leuven and VIB in Belgium, as well as large companies such as DuPont and Taconic.

Over the past six years, the researchers in the 3G Center have studied how 'grains in the diet'—including both the inclusion of whole grain and the omission of gluten—affect gut bacteria and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The recently published gluten study is the last major study conducted under the auspices of the center.

The 3G Center, which was funded through a grant of 35 million Danish kroner from the Danish Council for Strategic Research (now part of Innovation Fund Denmark), has thus officially come to an end. 

The grant has been of great importance for establishing a fruitful cooperation between a number of Danish research communities with different expertise in gut bacteria, diet and lifestyle diseases. A cross-disciplinary cooperation of this kind is necessary in order to solve major societal challenge such as the prevention of lifestyle diseases.

Although funding for the center has run out, the researchers involved in the center will continue to work to ensure that data and results from the projects will be utilized in new projects for the benefit of public health both in Denmark and internationally. 

Read more

The study is described in further detail in a scientific article in the journal Nature Communications: A low-gluten diet induces changes in the intestinal microbiome of healthy Danish adults. Please also read about the study in a press release from the University of Copenhagen: Should you eat a low gluten diet?

In total, the 3G Center has received 35 million Danish kroner from the Danish Council for Strategic Research and Innovation Fund Denmark.

The National Food Institute’s website has more information about the research carried out by the Research Group for Gut, Microbes and Health to further understand the effects of diet and food ingredients on the bacterial composition of the gut, and how the bacterial population affects the immune system and metabolism.

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