Posted on Apr 03, 2018, 5 p.m.
Gluten allergies are a common topic of discussion, but most research shows that only about 1% of the population have celiac disease, and about the same actually have non-celiac gluten intolerance. Thus this gluten free diet fad is not likely to be useful for the vast majority of people.
Gluten is a family of proteins that make up 85-90% of protein composition found within rye, wheat, barley, and some other grains. It is made up of close to equal proportions of glutenin and gliadin proteins, each of which has many subtypes, making the genetic diversity of gluten vast. Gluten makes up the majority of high protein content of wheat which is the staple food for much of the developing world.
Wheat allergies are most commonly seen only in children and generally wears off with time, making this fad gluten free diet not actually to be of any use to the vast majority of the general public being that only about 1% of the population will actually be affected by it. It is also seen in some animals that would traditionally be carnivorous in nature and would not eat wheat unless had no other choice. SO why is it then that this myth that gluten is harmful being perpetuated? One answer may be that many people may suffer adverse consequences of consuming too high a percentage of carbohydrates leading to dyslipidemia, obesity, coronary heart disease, and hypertension among others.
Gluten free diets require giving up many forms of bread and wheat based foods leading to sharp reductions in overall caloric intake. This will obviously lead to rapid weight loss and possible alleviation of many weight related conditions, but this should not be mistaken for a positive response to gluten omission, rather to reducing the overeating that was responsible for the symptoms to start with.
Gluten free diets are ones in which all traces of gluten have been removed from food products usually by artificial processing, which leads to loss of dietary fibre, minerals, and vitamins. Such foods tend to also contain more sodium, calories, fats, and processed starches such as potato flour, tapioca, and refined rice. Rather than concentrating on gluten free products which may be nutrient poor it may be wise to focus on a diet which includes a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits, poultry, fish, legumes and eggs, red or brown rice, and other wheat substitutes such as corn, millet, amaranth, and teff.
Individuals who are gluten sensitive or have celiac disease exclusion of gluten from their diet leads to resolution of many symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, flatulence, constipation, and abdominal pain. Intestinal villi will begin to recover normal function and height, digestive functions improve, and anxiety scores have also been observed to decreased. This dietary shift to gluten free is done in a safe manner which ensures dietary balance.
The vast majority of people following this fad phase and have adopted this food plan do not have any form of gluten intolerance and may be depriving themselves of a nutritious and inexpensive grain for no perceptible benefit due to dissemination of false information regarding gluten dangers to people who have an otherwise normal and healthy gut. In no surprise due to the fad the gluten free industry has grown 136% in just 2 years with over $12 billion dollars in sales. Studies show this has origin primarily in the misconception that digestion and general health are improved by omitting gluten from the diet, ignoring the dangers of substituting whole grain wheat with commercially processed gluten free foods which are more likely to contain more sugars and saturated fats. Several studies show that celiac patients who go gluten free have increased risks for obesity and metabolic syndrome. Other studies show reduction in heart disease risk in celiac patients which have gone gluten free. Rice flour most times cannot be substituted for wheat flour meaning people with celiac disease give up grains completely rather than substituting wheat with other whole grains which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Several studies confirm that excessive amounts of fats and proteins coupled with low quantities of iron, carbohydrates, zinc, calcium, dietary fiber, and magnesium in gluten free foods predispose to weight gain. Glycemic index in these foods is typically high and often hyperlipidemic due to increased saturated and trans fat content. Researchers have found that several years after following gluten free diets less than half of women were ingesting recommended quantities of nutrients and had low levels of folate, and vitamins D and B12, which is due to many gluten free foods being made using refined flours with low fiber from grain which have had aleurone layer removed by milling leaving only the starchy endosperm, any many containing trans fats.
Celiac diet patients should be screened to detect essential nutrient deficiencies. General restriction and lack of palatability of a strict gluten free diet may be cause for poor adherence, which may precipitate symptoms, making careful monitoring needed to ensure long term compliance with a gluten free balanced diet.
Gluten free fad is a controversial subject that even health practitioners question its real health benefits for individuals who do not have CD or sensitivities, rather than just focussing on a healthy proportioned balanced diet.
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