Gluten free food. Various pasta, bread, snacks and flour on wooden background from top view

It is one of the most popular types of grain: wheat. Nevertheless, he is considered by many to be “evil”. Those who want to lose weight in particular like to remove the supposed fattening food from their menu. A current analysis shows that too many kilos are not related to wheat and gluten consumed.

We encounter it in bread, pasta or pastries: cereals – often in the form of wheat. There is a lot of health in it. But many demonize wheat, especially the gluten it contains, the so-called gluten protein.

An analysis published in the “Nutrition Bulletin” can be understood as a kind of acquittal for gluten. It does not make you fat, so it is not responsible for a high Body Mass Index (BMI).

“Consumption of gluten and wheat does not lead to obesity,” summarizes Friedrich Longin on Twitter. “From a global perspective, BMI and the amount of wheat consumed are not connected either.” The professor is a cereal researcher and head of the wheat working group at the State Saatzucht-Institute of the University of Hohenheim. For years, Longin has dedicated itself to saving the honor of the controversial grain.

The analysis by Fred Brouns, School for Nutrition and Translational Research in Metabolism, Maastricht University, and Peter R. Shewry, Rothamsted Research, UK, states: Observational studies on gluten intake in very large cohorts show that gluten intake does not correlate with the daily energy intake, body weight and BMI. Rather, national and international health authorities recommend eating whole grains, most of which contain significant amounts of gluten. This improves the quality of nutrition and reduces the incidence of diet-related chronic diseases.

How did wheat and the gluten it contains get its bad reputation as a fattening food in the first place? To do this, the scientists look deep into the core of the grain and analyze what is happening at the molecular level.

There were observations from animal and laboratory research, as well as anecdotal evidence. They suggested that eating gluten stimulates weight gain because it contains peptides that act like opioids. In other words, as a happy maker, they are repeatedly required by the body – so the theory goes. Some call gluten the “opium in wheat”.

Another conceivable mechanism is that gluten peptides reduce resting energy expenditure, leading to a positive energy balance.

Peptide: A peptide is a small protein. As an organic compound, it is the result of linking several amino acids. Peptides perform numerous functions in the body. For example, they can have an analgesic, anti-inflammatory or hormonal effect. Some regulate metabolic processes.

In order to cause such effects in humans, however, several conditions must be met, according to the analysis:

However, that seems implausible.

Because even if peptides from food can get into the blood from the intestine in extremely small amounts, they are generally broken down quickly. This means that there is only a very short time for the processes mentioned to take place. To date, no gluten peptide sequences have been identified that affect regulators of energy metabolism. There was also a lack of data, write Fred Brouns and Peter R. Shewry , on how many gluten peptides are absorbed into the bloodstream, how stable they are there and how durable their bioactivity is. Therefore, there is no evidence that they have an effect in the brain on increasing appetite or on energy expenditure and weight gain.

Furthermore, the obesity levels observed in different countries appear to be independent of the level of wheat consumption, as the authors explain. A large body of observational data in humans showed that the level of gluten consumption was not related to either daily calorie intake or BMI. So there is nothing left of the diet myth that wheat makes you fat.

How the right diet improves metabolism, immune system and well-being – now in the FOCUS PDF guide.

Instead, grain can provide important nutrients. In all types of grain there is dietary fiber in the outer layers, fatty acids, including polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and various secondary plant substances.

Stuck in the wheat (all data per 100 grams on average for white flour):

Basically, grain is one of our most important foods – apart from the approximately five percent of the population who should avoid most types of grain such as wheat because of celiac disease or other intolerances.

However, some of the milder sensitivities to grain products could also be due to the fact that the production of grain products has changed in recent years. Bread production has also become faster and faster in order to be cheaper and cheaper. “Prefabricated products are made with many auxiliary materials so that time-consuming dough processing is eliminated,” reported Bernhard Watzl, Director of the Institute for Physiology and Biochemistry of Nutrition, Max Rubner Institute, in an interview with FOCUS Online some time ago. The long fermentation would be particularly important, it used to take up to 24 hours. During this time, the yeast breaks down around FODMAPs – the bread becomes more digestible for people who are sensitive to these sugars. The abbreviation stands for fermentable oligo-, di-, monosaccharides and polyols, which are flatulent types of sugar that are part of carbohydrates and dietary fiber.

If you also make sure to eat cereals as whole grain products, you provide the body with a lot of important dietary fiber. Every adult should eat at least 30 grams of this every day. Watzl also made it clear: “Bread is an important and health-promoting food for at least 95 percent of the population.”

So that wheat and gluten do not make you fat, the complete diet is ultimately decisive. It should be varied, with lots of vegetables and fruit. No smoking, little alcohol and regular exercise complete the health program.” to “So that wheat and gluten do not make you fat, the complete diet is ultimately decisive. It should be varied, with lots of vegetables and fruit. No smoking, little alcohol and regular exercise complete the health program. If you’re concerned that gluten is impacting your body in a negative fashion despite this analysis, you may want to consider testing for celiac disease.

Rothamsted Research receives strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the work is part of the strategic program Designing Future Wheat (BB/P016855/1).