Study under review: Wheat gluten intake increases weight gain and adiposity associated with reduced thermogenesis and energy expenditure in an animal model of obesity.
Wheat was introduced to the human diet about 9,500 years ago in the Mediterranean region as part of the “Neolithic Revolution,” when humans began to transition from hunting and gathering food to settled agriculture. Today, worldwide wheat production is estimated at 723 million tonnes, and the average U.S. citizen consumes roughly 132 pounds of wheat per year.
Gluten is the main protein complex found in wheat and related grains such as rye and barley, making up about 80% of their total protein content. Gluten is a unique protein in that our bodies do not possess the enzymes necessary to break it down completely (we do break most of it down), allowing fragments of the gluten protein to persist in the small intestine. In susceptible individuals, this can trigger three main forms of gluten reactions: wheat allergy, celiac disease, and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Gluten-free diets are clearly recommended for people with celiac disease or for people with gluten sensitivity. Yet, the popularity of gluten-free diets for the treatment of countless other health conditions has exploded in recent years. Sales of gluten-free foods grew 34% to nearly $1 billion over the last five years, and gluten avoidance is commonly advised for both weight loss and chronic conditions.
Yet there is little to no evidence to date supporting the use of a gluten-free diet in facilitating weight loss. In 2013, a group of researchers published the first controlled study investigating the effects of wheat gluten on a mouse model of diet-induced obesity. Their results suggested that gluten exposure was associated with weight gain, but failed to identify mechanisms explaining this link. The current study was conducted by the same group of researchers and aimed to fill this knowledge gap.
Gluten-free diets are well-researched for the treatment of individuals with immune-mediated gluten sensitivities. However, they’ve been increasingly used for numerous other health conditions, such as obesity, despite a relative lack of evidence supporting a link between gluten consumption and weight gain. The current study sought to investigate whether wheat gluten causes weight gain, and explored potential mechanisms.
Other Articles in Issue #18 (April 2016)
HDL: When good cholesterol breaks bad
LDL is commonly referred to as “bad”, whereas HDL is “good”. Like many other labels, these are oversimplified, especially as HDL-raising drugs have failed. This study explores why that might be.
Interview: Aaron Blaisdell, PhD
Dr. Blaisdell heads up a cognition research lab at UCLA, and is a central figure in the movement to research links between ancestral health and modern health.
High-carb, high satiety?
A common refrain is that carbs make you gain weight, and are too easy to overconsume. Luckily, this line of thinking can be tested in a randomized trial
Does omega status depend on your genes?
Genetic data could end up rewriting some aspects of nutrition literature. This study looked at people from different locales around the world, to see if they metabolize certain fats differently depending on their genes
Peanuts redux: following up on infant peanut exposure
We previously covered a major trial that suggested peanut avoidance was a bad idea for infants at risk of allergy. The researchers continued with those study subjects up to age 6, to see if the results still apply
Interview: Paul Jaminet, PhD
Dr. Jaminet is the CEO of a promising biotech targeting solid tumors. Here, he explains the science and business behind an innovative potential therapy that targets cancer from a new angle
Add fuel to the fire … or take it away?
Competitive endurance athletes manipulate their carb intake in various ways, and those aren’t always based on evidence. A new carb-cycling strategy may help to shave off precious seconds.
Don’t drink and drive, unless it’s grape juice
Red wine may get all the attention, but grapes (and grape juice) have benefits of their own. This randomized trial tested daily grape juice intake, not just for typical cognitive tests, but also for driving performance
ALA: Alliterative (anti)Longevity Aid?
ALA is used for a variety of purposes, such as for blood sugar control and potential longevity benefits. But this new evidence plants a seed of warning for those taking ALA over long periods of time.