The effect of gluten in adolescents and young adults with gastrointestinal symptoms: a blinded randomised cross-over trial

Caecilie Crawley, Nadia Savino, Cecilie Halby, Stine Dydensborg Sander, Anne Marie Nybo Andersen, Manimozhiyan Arumugam, Joseph Murray, Robin Christensen, Steffen Husby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The popularity of the gluten-free diet and sales of gluten-free products have increased immensely. Aims: To investigate whether gluten induces gastrointestinal symptoms, measured by self-reported questionnaires, as well as mental health symptoms in adolescents from a population-based cohort. Methods: The eligible participants (n = 273) were recruited from a population-based cohort of 1266 adolescents and had at least four different gastrointestinal symptoms. Phase one (n = 54) was a run-in phase where the participants lived gluten-free for 2 weeks. If they improved they continued to phase 2 (n = 33), a blinded randomised cross-over trial. Participants were blindly randomised either to start with 7 days of gluten, eating two granola bars containing 10 g of gluten or to 7 days on placebo, eating two granola bars without gluten, followed by the reverse and separated by a 7-day washout period. The effects of the intervention on gastrointestinal symptoms and mental health symptoms were assessed. Results: In total, 54/273 participants entered the run-in phase and 35 were eligible for randomization. A total of 33 were randomised and 32 completed the trial. The median age was 20.3 (IQR 19.2–20.9) and 32/33 participants were females. Compared with a placebo, gluten did not induce gastrointestinal symptoms. The difference in the average VAS was −0.01 (95% confidence interval −2.07 to 2.05). Nor did we find a difference in the outcomes measuring mental health. Conclusion: Compared with placebo, adding gluten to the diet did not induce gastrointestinal symptoms or worsened mental health in adolescents recruited from a population-based cohort. The trial registration number is NCT04639921.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1116-1127
Number of pages12
JournalAlimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 2022


  • gluten
  • gluten sensitivity enteropathy
  • gluten-free diet

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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