For the 1% of Americans estimated to have celiac disease, gluten-free foods are a must. What about the rest of us? Is a gluten-free diet a good choice for everyone?
Gluten: Truth vs Myth
No way. Here’s why.
Gluten-free products tend to be low in a wide range of important nutrients, including B vitamins, calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and fiber. These nutrients are plentiful, however, in the foods that do contain gluten—wheat, barley, rye, and other whole grain foods related to wheat.
Furthermore, not all gluten-free foods are harmless. Some are high in saturated fat or cholesterol. Others may be high in calories, but contain very little in the way of nutrition.
What is gluten?
Gluten refers to the proteins found in wheat endosperm that's ground to make flour. Gluten both nourishes plant embryos during germination and later affects the elasticity of dough, which in turn affects the chewiness of baked wheat products.
What is celiac disease?
Celiac disease is an abnormal immune or “allergic” response to gluten protein. This response can damage the lining of the small intestines and prevent important nutrients from being absorbed. Symptoms can include diarrhea, anemia, bone pain, and a severe skin rash.
Often, however, celiac disease, shows no symptoms. If you think you may have celiac disease, you should consult your doctor, who may recommend testing. The first test is typically a blood test to detect antibodies related to an abnormal immune response. If this test is positive, a biopsy is performed to confirm inflammation in the lining of the small intestines.
Myth and marketing
These days, everything from jello to shampoo is being marketed as “gluten-free.” Clearly, this is silly. Jello has neither wheat nor any other grain in it, and shampoo isn’t ingested. So what’s the point? The point is advertising clout, plus taking advantage of buyers who want to be on the cutting edge of the latest food fad, but are too busy to look into the facts.
For more information:
• webmd.com - diet
• webmd.com - digestive disorders
• webmd.com - heart disease
• webmd.com - diabetes
• webmd.com - cancer
• primaryimmune.org - allergies