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Posts Tagged ‘Celiac’

There is an ever-increasing bounty of gluten free foods available in grocery stores and on restaurant menus. Why? Are more people needing a gluten free diet, or just choosing to avoid gluten? The short answer is yes… to both questions.

Gluten free food products.If we look at the percentage of Americans that must avoid gluten for health reasons, that includes 1% of the US population with Celiac Disease, 0.4% with a wheat allergy, and then there’s that confusing category of non-Celiac gluten sensitivity, which may affect up to 6% of the US population. For more information on these conditions, you can read this blog article from Live Smart Ohio. That adds up to 7.4% of the US population avoiding gluten for medical reasons.

According to a 2015 Gallup poll, approximately twenty percent of Americans are on a gluten free diet. So what is the remaining 12.6% of our population doing on a gluten free diet? The most popular reason consumers give for buying gluten-free products is they believe the gluten-free diet has health benefits, including weight loss. While there is evidence to show that gluten free diet can help lessen symptoms associated with certain autoimmune diseases such as dermatitis herpetiformis, irritable bowel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, thyroiditis, and psoriasis, there is no evidence to support gluten-free health claims for the general population. Gluten is found in foods that are part of a healthy diet and contribute nutrients and fiber. Some people that are on a gluten-free diet simply don’t need to be.

As for losing weight, that all depends on how you go gluten-free. Reducing refined carbs like white bread, crackers and pasta and processed grains and replacing them with whole grains will reduce calories and increase fiber. However, if you replace gluten-containing products with their less healthy gluten-free substitutes, you’re likely to consume more fat, sugar and calories. Additionally, refined gluten-free foods are not usually enriched or fortified with essential vitamins and minerals. Gluten-free doesn’t necessarily mean healthy.

While there are medical diagnoses that require avoiding gluten, there is little evidence to support gluten-free health claims for the general population. If you would like more information about gluten-free eating, please visit this 30 minute webinar by OSU Extension on Gluten Free Eating.

Sources:

“9 Things You Should Know Before Going Gluten-Free” 2016. Celiac Disease Foundation.

Gaesser, G.A., PhD & Angadi, S.S., PhD “Gluten-Free Diet: Imprudent Dietary Advice for the General Population?” 2012. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

“What is Celiac Disease?” 2016. Celiac Disease Foundation.

Written by: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County

Reviewed by: Dan Remley, Field Specialist, Food Nutrition and Wellness, Ohio State University Extension

 

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You’ve probably heard a lot about Gluten. Labels in grocery stores highlight many products as gluten free… Many of these seem like healthy products. But does being “gluten free” make something healthy? Is gluten bad for you? And… what is gluten?

What is Gluten? Gluten is a protein naturally found in wheat, rye, and barley. This protein provides bread, grain, and pasta products with elasticity and the ability to hold shape. Without gluten, we wouldn’t have many of the grain products we’ve enjoyed for thousands of years!bread-725873_1920

Is Gluten Unhealthy? The simple answer is “no.” However, there are 3 groups of individuals who are unable to eat gluten products due to specific dietary restrictions:

  1. Those with Celiac Disease: When those with Celiac Disease consume gluten, their bodies send immune responses that attack their small intestines. Over prolonged periods of time, this immune response destroys the intestine’s ability to obtain nutrients from food. Celiac Disease is a serious condition that can cause digestive issues,  fatigue, anemia, osteoporosis, and malnutrition.
  2. Those with Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS):  Those with NCGS will not experience damage to their small intestine due to gluten consumption. But they will experience a list of unpleasant symptoms including brain fatigue, lost energy, and digestive issues.
  3. Those with wheat allergies: Those who are allergic to wheat experience allergic reactions to  wheat itself– not to gluten in wheat. These individuals must avoid gluten simply because it is naturally present in wheat products.

spike-8739_1920For the rest of us, gluten is just a protein in wheat, barley, & rye. In fact, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines recommend Americans consume grains daily, making half our grains whole. Whole grains are essential to digestive health and provide valuable nutrients. Whole grains include wheat, barley, and rye, as well as other non-gluten products like brown rice, quinoa, and buckwheat.

If you don’t have Celiac Disease, an allergy, or sensitivity to gluten; eating wheat, barley, and rye is not unhealthy. Instead, these whole grains can supply important nutrients.

Why are gluten-free products everywhere? Formally, the U.S. lacked any rules regarding what food companies could market as being “gluten free.” In 2013, The FDA created a law which required all food products to meet specific criteria before they could be marketed as “gluten free.” This rule ensured all individuals with Celiac Disease could be certain the food they purchased was safe.

Since this time, the use of “gluten free” on labels has grown in popularity as a way to market products to those with Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivity. However, these labels do not indicate greater nutritional value. Some products which say “gluten free” would never normally contain gluten. For example, packages of potatoes, rice, candy,  or meat which market that they’re”gluten free,” do not normally include gluten. But this label indicates to those with Celiac or gluten sensitivity that no gluten has been present on the equipment used to process these foods– aka that the risk of cross-contact with gluten on equipment is limited to the trace amount allowable by the FDA. Nothing has been done to make these non-grain products healthier.This label is simply there to highlight a safe products for those with Celiac or gluten sensitivity.

So what does this mean for me? If you have Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivity, be sure to consume gluten-free whole grains which are easy to find in most stores.  bread-399286_1920

If you don’t have Celiac Disease or Gluten Sensitivity, enjoy wheat, barley, and rye products: Just be sure to make half these choices whole grain. This will help you choose grain products high in nutrients and help you to live healthy live well!

 

References:

UCLA Division of Digestive Diseases. Celiac vs. gluten sensitivity vs. wheat allergies. University of California, Los Angeles. Retrieved from: http://gastro.ucla.edu/site.cfm?id=281

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/

U.S. Food and Drug Aministration (2014). ‘Gluten free’ now means what it says. FDA Consumer Health Information. Retrieved from:  http://www.fda.gov/downloads/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/UCM363276.pdf

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