By Rachel Garrod
One of my latest rants concerns gluten intolerance. I’m not a dietician, but a physiotherapist, but I do take an interest in nutritional research and I find the rise in gluten intolerance remarkable – to say the least!
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley – it’s what gives bread its elasticity and lovely chewy texture. But lately, it seems, everyone is gluten intolerant. Do they need to be? Is it healthier?
A recent study, published in the journal Digestion found that 86 per cent of individuals who believed they were gluten sensitive could tolerate it. Yes, there are certain diseases where gluten must be avoided. People with celiac disease, a hereditary auto-immune condition that affects about one per cent of the population, and those with extremely rare wheat allergies for instance. But what about people without those problems? In the study researchers from Italy enrolled 392 people, all of whom believed they were gluten intolerant. The subjects were instructed to eat gluten-free foods for two months and a series of medical tests were performed (blood tests, endoscopies and others). They then ate foods with gluten in it – bread, etc. – for six months and were monitored for symptoms associated with gluten intolerance. The results showed that of the 392 people 6.63 per cent had celiac disease and two individuals had wheat allergy – so they needed to avoid gluten – but the large majority, a whopping 86 per cent, had no problems associated with gluten. So had they been suckered by the hype? Perhaps.
What is worrying though, about all the bogus nutritional advice we are fed (see the pun!), is that it can have real health consequences if you already have an underlying disease. For example, on one site for diabetes, strong advice is given to avoid gluten products. This is simply not true. Research from Harvard University showed that those who consumed fewer gluten products, in particular whole grain and cereal, were in fact more likely to have type 2 diabetes than those who ate food with it in. As the researchers noted: “Gluten-free foods often have less dietary fibre and other micronutrients, making them less nutritious, and they also tend to cost more.” So, why pay more for something that is inherently less healthy and may in fact cause further problems down the line?
Physiotherapy lecturer and counsellor Rachel Garrod can be contacted
at: Tel. (+34) 652 281 122; firstname.lastname@example.org