Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Study Spotlight: Gluten Free for a Performance Edge?

Gluten-free diets are become staples among people who do and do not have celiac disease. Celiac disease is a medical condition in which people are unable to digest wheat gluten and therefore are classified as gluten intolerant and will become very ill upon ingesting gluten; ultimately suffering from a variety of GI issues if they eat anything containing gluten. This makes up about 1% of our population.

There are another group of people classified is gluten sensitive in which they may or may not be able to properly digest gluten and are advised to eat less of it. And then there are those who are perfectly capable of digesting gluten and will likely experience no ill effects if they ingest it and they make up about 99% of the world's population. However, people still opt for gluten-free menu options and swear by gluten-free diets regardless of whether or not they have celiac disease. So are these diets superior? Can they help athletic performance? Researchers have starting digging into these questions.
 to find out

What did they do?
Researchers had 13 well trained cyclists follow either a gluten free or gluten-rich diet for a period of 7 days, then complete a washout diet for 10-days and then completed the opposite diet plan.

Before and after each dietary period subjects completed a 45-minute steady-state (70% of peak power) ride followed by a 15-min time trial to examine the effects of a gluten-free diet on performance. Subjects also completed a "daily analysis of life demands for athletes" survey and GI questionnaire to assess more subjective effects from the experimental diet in addition to providing blood samples to identify any changes in inflammatory markers.

What did they find?
There were no significant differences observed in time trial performance, GI symptoms during the performance task. There were also no differences observed between markers of inflammation and subjective measures of life demands.

Take Home Message?
Based on the results of this study it does not appear that a short-term gluten-free diet will improve performance or GI issues nor will it will reduce markers of systemic inflammation.  Now, a few important things to take note of:

1. This was indeed a very short-term intervention and perhaps a longer dietary period would have led to a different outcome.
2. These cyclists did not have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity issues and someone who does would likely benefit from a gluten-free diet.
3. Maybe gluten-free diets are in fact just a shame for healthy individuals.


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