According to a recent poll by The NPD Group, a leading global information company, 30% of adults want to cut down or eliminate gluten from their diets. Some call this the latest fad or “health trend,” others find it absolutely necessary.
So what is gluten? Gluten is present in many grains, primarily wheat. It is a combination of two proteins, glutenin and gliadin (McGee 2004). Nutritionally, it is not essential that humans consume gluten, and the majority of people who do have no problem digesting and absorbing the proteins. According to Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RD, and senior health strategist for the American Council on Exercise, “For most people, there is nothing ‘bad’ about gluten. It doesn’t make us gain weight. It doesn’t clog your arteries. It doesn’t increase your blood pressure or cholesterol. And for most people it doesn’t cause stomach pains, cramping, bloating, diarrhea or constipation.” Muth claims that less than 1% of the population has Celiac’s Disease, which is an auto-immune disease where elimination of gluten is essential. Persons suffering from this disease cannot absorb the protein gliadin, which can lead to several health complications such as fatigue, malnutrition and some cancers (Sapone et al 2012).
However, in a normal healthy digestive system where enzymes break down the proteins into amino acids and then absorb them through the small intestine, there is no need or advantage in going gluten-free (Smolin & Grosvenor 1997). The best assurance for good health through proper nutrition is to consume a diet high in the true health foods like fruits and vegetables and, yes, whole grains which are good for us.
Watch this video to learn more about gluten free grains.
References: McGee, H. 2004. On Food and Cooking (Revised ed.). New York NY: Scribner. Smolin, L., & Grosvenor, M.B. 1997. Nutrition Science and Applications (2nd ed.). Fort Worth, TX: Saunders College Pub. Sapone, A., et al. 2012. Spectrum of Gluten-Related Disorders: Consensus of New Nomenclature and Classification. BMC Medicine, 10:13.