Does giving up gluten give athletes an edge in performance? The Washington Post looks into the science of this idea.
A few years ago, the gluten free diet was virtually unheard of, yet now it seems to be a national obsession. Is the problem gluten, the wheat, or something else? Gluten has been found to be one of the foods that help initiate inflammation in the body. Others, while not the norm stay away because of celiac disease, which is a severe gluten intolerance.
The Washington Post looks into the theories, the science and more.
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Many athletes tout the gluten-free way. What’s the science behind the claim?
Anna Medaris Miller
Whoever said that running a marathon is mostly mental lied. That’s what I was thinking as I winced across the 14th Street Bridge during the 2010 Marine Corps Marathon. After 20-plus miles, it wasn’t a lack of energy or a bad attitude that was holding me back but troubles with, to put it politely, my gastrointestinal tract.
Though I finished the marathon, my second, it took me nearly two more years and two uncomfortable half-marathons to come to terms with the likely source of my problem: gluten.
I don’t have celiac disease, an autoimmune reaction to gluten (a protein found in bread, pasta and many other foods containing wheat, barley or rye), but my internist says I am probably gluten-sensitive, a less serious condition that nonetheless can come with such symptoms as diarrhea, bloating and joint pain.
While there is no diagnostic test for gluten sensitivity, the Center for Celiac Research at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children estimates that about 6 percent of Americans fit the condition’s murky criteria: They don’t have celiac, but their symptoms are alleviated when they stop eating gluten.
Gluten-free diets are gaining popularity, with U.S. sales of these foods “reaching $4.2 billion in 2012, for a compound annual growth rate of 28 percent over the 2008-2012 period,” according to a report by the market research company Packaged Facts. “The conviction that gluten-free products are generally healthier is the top motivation for consumers of these products,” the report states.