Sunday, August 28, 2016

Gluten Free

How many people shun gluten?
Millions.A YouGov poll last year found that one in ten UK households have at least one supposedly gluten-intolerant member, and that 60% of adults have bought gluten-free products. According to a US survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Centre,
Gluten responsible for obesity, inflammation and a host of  other chronic health conditions.

Since the turn of the century, gluten-free has gone from being an obscure niche to a multimillion-pound enterprise. Supermarkets now stock a vast range of gluten-free products, from gluten-free curry and gluten-free chicken nuggets to gluten-free Easter eggs.

But what exactly is gluten?
It’s the spongy complex of proteins, found in wheat, barley and rye, that gives elasticity to dough and enables it to rise. When flour is moistened and kneaded into dough, two proteins, gliadin and glutenin, join together to form an elastic, microscopic latticework that traps the carbon dioxide produced when yeast ferments,causing dough to inflate. Baking hardens the gluten, which helps the finished product keep its shape. Wheat – and thus gluten – is ubiquitous in the Western diet, and not just in bread, pasta and cakes; it’s a hidden ingredient in thousands of processed products such as ice cream, soy sauce and dressings.
Humans simply don’t have the enzymes to break down gluten, so some peptides (partially digested bits of the protein) remain in the intestine. For most of us, this is insignificant: they are simply eliminated. But for a small minority, it causes coeliac disease: the peptides cross the intestinal barrier, triggering the immune system. White blood cells go on the attack, damaging the intestinal wall. This results in stomach pain, diarrhoea, bloating, fatigue, weight loss and sometimes destruction of the small intestine. Coeliac disease is a serious autoimmune condition which requires the elimination of all wheat, for life. But many others today believe they are allergic, or sensitive, to gluten, and that giving it up improves their health.

Coeliac disease is rare, affecting about 1% of people in developed nations. A small number of others may suffer from allergies or sensitivities. But the vast majority do not react badly to gluten – otherwise wheat would never have become a leading food source. You could get healthier on a gluten-free diet because it might increase your intake of fruit and veg, and reduce consumption of refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pizza and puddings. But such a diet isn’t good for you per se. In fact, if you eat only gluten-free products, you may be short of vitamins, nutrients and fibre; they tend to be heavily processed, and can be loaded with fat and sugar. Gluten-free brown bread has twice as much fat as the normal alternative.
Diet fads and phobias have a long history. Many symptoms blamed on gluten – bloating, fatigue, “brain fog” and lack of “wellbeing” – have, in the past, been blamed on fat, yeast and monosodium glutamate. The current epidemic of self-diagnosed gluten intolerance is based on very little evidence. But there are complicating factors. Coeliac disease is definitely on the rise: US tests show that it has grown from around 0.2% of the population in the early 1950s to 1% today. And a high proportion of sufferers are undiagnosed: in the UK, tests have shown that one in 100 people have the disease, but only one in 800 is diagnosed (it requires a blood test and an endoscopy).Besides, there are also other forms of wheat allergy and sensitivity.

What are those?
There’s a rare wheat allergy, sometimes called baker’s asthma, which causes itching and sneezing. More controversially, there is “non-coeliac gluten sensitivity” or NCGS. Sufferers have coeliac-like symptoms which resolve themselves when they cut out gluten. (But it’s not well understood, very rare, and some scientists question whether it exists at all.) Finally, the NHS suggests that those who suffer from bloating after eating bread should avoid basic supermarket loaves, made using fast-acting yeast and added enzymes. These can cause gas and indigestion, for reasons that are nothing to do with gluten. Share Health|Fitness
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