Unless you actually have coeliac disease, gluten doesn’t affect your brain function, new research has found.
A study of over 13,000 people has found no link between eating gluten and lower brain function.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. There are some people who are legitimately allergic to it, a condition called coeliac disease. People with coeliac experience a severe immune response to gluten, where antibodies begin to mistakenly target their own body’s tissues or organs, and the lining of their intestine begins to erode away.
Those with coeliac disease can experience an impact on their brain function when they eat gluten. A 2014 study found patients with coeliac showed an improvement in brain function after a year of not eating gluten.
But only around one percent of the global population actually has coeliac disease.
The rest of the world, it seems, just believed the hype that gluten is bad for you.
Gluten-free diets have become very popular in the last decade. A 2015 study found 20 percent of Americans avoided gluten. The most common reason given? No reason at all. (35 percent of respondents said they bought gluten-free food for ‘no reason at all’ versus eight percent who said they had a gluten sensitivity.)
The new study, Long-term Intake of Gluten and Cognitive Function Among US Women, was published this week in the JAMA Network Open medical journal.
It studied 13,494 women in the US who don’t have coeliac disease or a diagnosed gluten intolerance from 1991 to 2015.
It found no statistical evidence of any link between eating gluten and cognitive function.
The study’s authors call out the number-one New York Times best-selling book Grain Brain for popularising the notion that gluten gives people cognitive impairment or brain fog. The book, which calls grains “a terrorist group that bullies our most precious organ, the brain”, argues that “even so-called healthy carbs like whole grains” can cause depression, ADHD, epilepsy, anxiety and dementia.
The study concludes that unless you have coeliac disease or another diagnosed gluten sensitivity, there’s no reason to limit gluten from your diet in relation to brain function.
“Our findings suggest that restricting dietary gluten for the purpose of maintaining or improving cognition is not warranted.”