Gluten, the big divide. Should I eat gluten? Should I avoid gluten? What even is gluten? Between the food labels, dedicated avoiders, and outspoken advocates, gluten has become an every-day word that was once caged in only health foods stores. As one of the most heavily consumed proteins on earth, what’s with all the fuss?
To start, gluten is the bonding of two molecules, glutenin and gliadin, which create the elastic characteristic of dough and the chewy texture of bread. Gluten traps carbon dioxide and adds volume to the loaf, adding crucial characteristics to pasta, bread, cereals, and even beer, but lately it seems that everyone is hopping on the gluten-free bandwagon. Without much scientific support to back it up, many media testimonials claim that people lose-weight, and have more energy, with even some rumors of autism treatment, but going gluten free is much more than asking your local pizza joint to make a special personal pie. It is also cutting out soy sauce, foods with “natural flavoring”, vitamin and mineral supplements, medications, and even certain toothpastes. According to Dr. Leffler, the assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, spontaneously cutting out one of your biggest sources of dietary fiber might not be the best move. Some researchers claim that our modernized production of grains and genetic modifications have lead to growing intolerance but a recent study published by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry failed to find any evidence to support these claims.
If you’ve ever heard of Celiac’s disease, then you are aware that some people are sensitive to gluten and just fifty milligrams of it can be enough to damage the lining of their small intestines. This condition can be diagnosed by a blood test that looks for the presence of transglutaminase antibodies, which cause significant discomfort in the body if gluten is consumed. A 2017 study released by the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology, rounded up 103 patients less than 21 years of age that had been diagnosed with Celiac’s. After twelve months of a strict gluten-free diet, only 19% had been treated of their discomforts with 32% showing some recovery, leaving 43% of the patients with persistent and remaining health issues. The conclusion of this study was that the guidelines for celiac disease should be revisited.
While there is no definite answer to the growth of this condition, which has been becoming more prevalent since the 1990’s, it may come down to other ingredients such as sweeteners, additives, and the chemicals used to bleach flour like acetone peroxide, chlorine, and benzoyl peroxide. Traditional breads consist of whole grains, water, salt, yeast, and nothing else, so Stephen Jones, a molecular cytogeneticist at Washington State University recommends switching to real bakery-style bread before deciding to cut gluten out completely.
All in all, everyone’s body is different and if gluten-free feels good then it should be celebrated, however, if you do choose to go gluten make sure you’re consuming other grains like brown rice or quinoa, more fruits, veggies, and beans to increase dietary fiber. With further research, who knows what the global stance on gluten will be in the future. For now, all we can do is listen to our bodies and wait.
Gluten-free diet may not promote good intestinal health: Study
(“Nearly one in five children with coeliac disease showed signs of continual intestinal damage, even with a strict regimen to a gluten-free diet”)
Source: Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition