Welcome in this series of articles about famous diets (ketogenic diet, gluten-free diet, intermittent fasting ...). Coup d’barre has explored these diets and is deciphering them for you today. Are they a good or bad idea? This is what we will find out ...
Gluten free diet
Today we are going to take a look at the gluten free diet. Adopted by stars of cinema, music and sport… It is more and more popular and is turning into a reel fashion effect. Gluten-free products are invading food stores. But what really is gluten? is it really bad for your health? Should we adopt the gluten-free diet? Fad or real interest? This is what you will find out by reading this article 😉
What is gluten?
Gluten is the name given to a set of proteins naturally found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye.
It’s a mixture of proteins belonging to 2 families: prolaminand and glutenin. Different prolamin can be part of the composition of gluten. They can be classified according to the grain in which they are found: the prolamin of wheat is called gliadin, that of the barley hordein and that of rye secalin.
Gluten is a viscous and sticky substance, whence its name from the Latin which means glue, gum.
Gluten is everywhere! Of course, we found it in food products such as pastas, pizzas, breads, cookies… made from cereals naturally containing gluten. However, it is also found in processed foods, prepared meals, cold meats, dressings, spices ... It is therefore part of the composition of many food products, but it can also be present in cosmetics, medicines ...
Why is it so used?
Gluten is often used by food companies, either as a basic ingredient in a recipe or as an additive for several advantages. It plays an important role in the consistency and swelling of the dough. It allows to bind the food of a preparation between them, to make the dough elastic, to trap air bubbles which will allow the dough to rise during cooking and it promotes moisture retention thanks to its fixing power of water. It thus makes it possible to obtain a soft and pleasant texture in the mouth.
Why eating gluten free?
A. Originally a medical necessity :
Gluten is generally safe for your health and most people can tolerate it. However, a small portion of the population presents disorders related to this consumption. The "gluten-free" lifestyle is therefore not for them a food choice but a medical necessity. Originally, the gluten-free market was created to meet the demand of these individuals and was very underdeveloped a few years ago.
There are 3 main disorders related to gluten consumption :
- Celiac disease
Celiac disease, also called gluten intolerance, is an inflammatory and autoimmune disease in which a person's immune system attacks these own gut cells in the presence of gluten. About 1% of the population suffers from this disease.
When consuming gluten, the body produces an inappropriate immune system response that attacks the lining of the small intestine. These attacks destroy the villi (villous atrophy) which allow nutrients to be absorbed. The more damaged the villi, the less they will be able to absorb nutrients. This malabsorption can generate various digestive problems such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating... but also weight loss, deficiencies, headache, fatigue... These symptoms generally appear within hours of consuming gluten but some people have none.
The consumption of gluten over time will worsen the health of the individual and will gradually lead to malnutrition, intestinal connections or other serious complications (such as cancer, other autoimmune disease ...).
- Wheat gluten allergy
Wheat allergy is an immediate reaction of the immune system triggered by certain sources in wheat which are identified as being harmful to the body (allergen). The body then defends itself against this substance as an aggressor which will cause symptoms.
These symptoms can be more or less serious such as chronic pain, abdominal pain, headache, breathing difficulties, anaphylactic shock which can lead to death.
- Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity
Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is manifested by intestinal discomfort after ingestion of gluten. It is neither an allergic reaction to wheat nor an autoimmune reaction like celiac disease. However, it is characterized by symptoms similar to gluten intolerance. These symptoms appear soon after consuming gluten and disappear when it is removed from the diet.
This sensitivity to non-celiac gluten is difficult to diagnose. For the moment we do not know the exact cause or causes of this disease. It seems that 1 to 6% of the population is affected by this disorder.
For these 3 disorders, the only effective treatment currently is to remove gluten from the diet. To recognize a gluten-free product you can find several claims:
- The mention “gluten-free” or the crossed-out epi logo means that the product contains less than 20 mg of gluten per kg of finished product. This consumption is safe for all consumers including people with celiac disease.
- The mention "very low gluten content" means that the product contains between 21 and 100 mg of gluten per kg of product. These foods are not recommended for celiac disease. When it comes to allergies, their consumption will depend on the individual's tolerance level. People sensitive to non-celiac gluten can generally tolerate this type of product.
- You can find in the list of ingredients the mention "trace of gluten" which means that the product is made in a manufacturing site where the gluten is used to prepare other recipes. There is therefore a risk of product contamination. Not knowing the amount of gluten found, it is not recommended for celiac patients and allergy sufferers to consume it.
Here is a list of some naturally gluten-free foods:
Warning: These 3 disorders are often confused due to the similar symptoms they cause. However, the dangers in the short and long term are not the same. In addition, gluten is not necessarily the cause of our small digestive problems or other ! It is not because you have some difficulty in digesting or that the exclusion of gluten in your diet makes you feel slightly better, that you are necessarily intolerant, sensitive or allergic to gluten and that it is necessary to ban gluten of your diet. It is recommended to consult a health professional in case of suspicious symptoms and before starting a gluten-free diet.
2. A fad for what benefits?
The gluten-free market has developed strongly by becoming a fad advocating the potential benefits of this diet: reduction of fatigue, less heavy or bloated after a meal, weight loss ... Many people adopt it without however being intolerant, allergic or sensitive to it. So why adopting it in this case? fad or real benefit?
Gluten is a long, complex, coiled molecule that is difficult to digest. When you remove it from your diet, it will be easier to digest. This will make you feel lighter, less bloated. Nutrients from the ingested bolus are digested more quickly and it appears that energy is more readily available.
3. So let's get started?
Should we ban gluten from our diet? Gluten free is actually better for our health and means eating healthier?
We'll show you that it's not that easy and gluten-free isn't healthier.
To better understand the nutritional differences between gluten-free and gluten-free, we compared 2 packs of pasta of the same brand and same shape.
We can notice that gluten-free pasta has less proteins but more saturated fatty acids than pasta containing gluten. Indeed, industrial gluten-free food products (such as pasta, breads, cakes, etc.) are generally of poorer nutritional value. They often have less protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, are richer in saturated fatty acids and have a high glycemic index (be careful with diabetes).
Note: For people who must follow a gluten-free diet with medical advice it is advisable to pay attention to a varied and balanced diet to avoid some deficiencies.
It can be seen that the list of ingredients is longer for gluten-free products. To obtain a tasty product and get as close as possible to the texture and taste of products containing gluten, manufacturers add ingredients (additives, artificial flavors, gelling agents, etc.). These additions are sometimes natural but more often we come across artificial ones. Thus the composition of the product is generally worse than products with gluten.
A gluten-free diet can be difficult to stick to, as gluten is present in many foods and these products are at least 2x more expensive than gluten-free products. This price is explained by more expensive raw materials, this substitute for flour containing gluten, the diversity of the foods that make up the product, longer research and development of the product, and a sometimes more complex manufacturing process. This price is going to decrease with the increase of the market.
In conclusion, what to do?
The gluten-free diet is essential for people with intolerance, allergy or sensitivity to gluten. It is necessary to consult a health professional in case of suspicious symptom and before to implement this diet. However, there is no point in consuming gluten-free without proven pathology.