A recent study claims that it’s really fructan, not gluten, that causes Non-Wheat Gluten Sensitivity. But I’m not convinced.
Fructan is a fructose polymer, which means a bunch of fructose end-to-end. So to say fructans are the problem is basically saying it’s fructose, not gluten, that is causing the problem.
If we take a step back from medical speak for a moment, doesn’t that mean that Non-Wheat Gluten Sensitivity is really a fruit allergy? But, wouldn’t the sufferer know that? Bread, not so good, but apples really give you diarrhea? So, that’s my first issue.
My second issue is the study itself. They fed fifty-nine people muesli bars. Some of these bars had gluten, some had fructan, and some were just placebo. Over time, all the participants ate all three bars. More of them had symptoms on the fructan bars than on the gluten bars. So that was the headline.
What didn’t make the news was the placebo bars. More people had problems on the placebo bars than on the gluten bars. Almost as many people had problems on placebo as had problems on fructan. “Thirteen participants had the highest overall GSRS-IBS score after consuming gluten, 24 had the highest score after consuming fructan, and 22 had the highest score after consuming placebo.” So that says to me that the placebo itself was enough of a problem they should probably have thrown out the results instead of tagging fructan for being slightly nastier than the placebo.
So is fructan off the hook? No. Nothing is off the hook. Why? “No systematic studies are available on NCGS.” Which means every muesli bar challenge will make the news until we get bigger, more systematic trials.
Yes, there are other studies out there, some of them showing some benefit from a low fructan diet. But the total of all the studies is 197 patients. That’s a pretty small number to put millions of people on a restrictive diet that may or may not benefit them. The same could be said of the low or no gluten diet, which is now popular among about a third of the population.
Here’s a simple test. Avoid something for four days. Then binge on it. If it causes problems, then it’s a problem. If it’s not a problem, it’s not a problem. Life is too short to make problems for yourself.