NOV 28, 2017 03:57 PM PST

Is it Fructan and not Gluten That is Irritating Guts?

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Gluten, a compound found in wheat and other grains, has generated a lot of headlines in recent years; it is blamed for disrupting the gastrointestinal tracts of people who experience a range of symptoms. However, some scientists think it is not gluten, but another class of molecules called fructans, that are causing these gut problems. The work, reported in Gastroenterology, raises many doubts about the benefits of a gluten-free diet, as fructan was found to be more likely to cause gastrointestinal symptoms in people who have reported sensitivity to barley, wheat, and rye.

As much as thirteen percent of the population reports discomfort like bloating after consuming foods that contain gluten. The blame may be misplaced, the investigators found. Links have been previously established between symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and fructans, and the scientists wanted to know whether fructans may be to blame for more minor digestive issues. Learn more from the video.

The researchers recruited 59 people who considered themselves to be gluten intolerant for the study; the participants were given one type of muesli bars and told to report their symptoms. Over the course of several weeks, they ate bars that had gluten, had fructan, or had neither. The participants that got the bars with fructan were the only ones experiencing symptoms. Those that ate bars with neither compound or bars with only gluten did not experience gut discomfort. 

Wheat contains gluten, as well as fructan. / Image Credit: Pixabay

"Gluten was originally assumed to be the culprit because of celiac disease, and the fact that people felt better when they stopped eating wheat," said one author of the report, Peter Gibson. "Now it seems like that initial assumption was wrong."

Another recent report found that those following a gluten-free diet may be putting themselves at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. That makes this work especially valuable as gluten-free food products are rapidly gaining in popularity. It may also help explain why people who follow such a diet often cannot relieve all of their bowel issues.

Fructans are a type of fructose compound of various lengths. Those with a short length are called fructooligosaccharides. They can be found in wheat, as well as onions, garlic, leeks, agave, artichokes, and asparagus.

Sources: New Scientist, Gastroenterology

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
AUG 11, 2018
Videos
AUG 11, 2018
Hit The Sweet Spot - MIT's Image Awards
MIT researchers are trying to engineer a smarter insulin....
SEP 03, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
SEP 03, 2018
Two Genes Found to be Essential to REM Sleep
In mice lacking genes important to acetylcholine signaling, REM sleep was nearly lost....
SEP 15, 2018
Microbiology
SEP 15, 2018
Researchers Surprised to Find Bacteria That Make Electricity in the Human Gut
It seems that many microbes, including strains in the human gut that are potentially pathogenic, can generate electricity....
SEP 18, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
SEP 18, 2018
Visualizing the Organization of Human Cells With Machine Learning
Instead of fluorescent labeling, scientists found a way to use computers to identify cellular structures....
OCT 07, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
OCT 07, 2018
Towards a Deeper Understanding of Heart Development
If we learn how the heart is built, we may learn how to mend a broken one....
OCT 21, 2018
Videos
OCT 21, 2018
What's up With Gluten?
It took many years for scientists to discover that gluten sensitivity was a real condition....
Loading Comments...