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Food and Nutrition Institute expert: Eliminating gluten from a healthy person's diet is a mistake

30.07.2017 Health, Interesting facts

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By giving up gluten we expose ourselves to diseases associated with increased consumption of saturated fats, sugar and salt: hypertension, atherosclerosis and obesity, said Anna Wojtasik, an expert from the National Food and Nutrition Institute. She explained why we need gluten.

Gluten is not harmful for healthy people. On the contrary, it is essential for proper development and functioning - noted Dr. Wojtasik.


Gluten occurs naturally in grains of wheat, barley and rye. It improves the quality of the bread, makes the dough light and fluffy. And yet it is gluten that indigestion, bloating, malaise, lack of strength are attributed to. Experts say this is a mistake and deal with stereotypes related to gluten. According to scientists, gluten is wrongly considered the culprit of most ailments.


In medicine the name "gluten" refers to the ethanol-soluble fractions of cereal proteins, the so-called prolamin - like gliadin in wheat, sekalin in rye, and hordein in barley. "As a result of digestion specific peptides are produced in the gastrointestinal tract, which are harmful to people with genetic predisposition to celiac disease" - said Dr. Wojtasik.


Gluten is a protein that is resistant to the proteolytic enzymes of the human digestive tract, so only partial digestion the body produces peptides with high molecular mass. In gluten-sensitive individuals, the epithelial cells of the small intestine become unsealed, making it more permeable also to large peptide molecules produced as a result of gluten digestion. In individuals with genetic predisposition to celiac disease, some of these peptides initiate inflammation.


In the case of a healthy human even large peptide particles are not a problem, which is why the elimination of removal from the diet is pointless. Dr. Wojtasik noted that in the case of healthy people, giving up gluten is often associated with higher intake of saturated fats, sugar and salt, the ingredients the excess of which in the diet is a risk factor for hypertension, atherosclerosis, obesity and other chronic diseases. Higher intake of these undesirable ingredients is due to the use of highly processed gluten-free products.


So if you are healthy, you should not give up eating gluten, because as a protein it is essential for the proper development and functioning of the body. The nutritional value of cereal proteins, including gluten, is lower compared to animal proteins - contained in eggs, meat or milk.


Dr Wojtasik emphasised that cereals and cereal products are the main plant foods that supply proteins. Cereal products are the main source of protein in traditional diets in Poland. They supply about one third of the proteins consumed per day. The most important product is bread, which accounts for about 70-80 percent of all consumed cereal products.


Technologists define gluten as a complex produced as a result of kneading wheat flour under water into a dough, and then washing out the starch. This treatment leads to obtaining an elastic mass. That mass is gluten. Its structure retains the bubbles of carbon dioxide released during the fermentation of the dough.


"It gives bread its fluffy, porous structure. This protein improves the quality of baked goods, makes them light and fluffy, and therefore much tastier than their gluten free counterparts" - explained Jarosław Marczuk, president of the foundation "Chleb to zdrowie" ("Bread is health").


Spring bread and non-disintegrating pasta owe their properties to gluten. To obtain similar properties in gluten-free products, it is necessary to add a variety of thickeners, bulking agents and stabilizers.


Until recently, gluten was only found in cereal-based foods, in which it occurs naturally: in breads, bread rolls, pastries, pasta and cereals. Nowadays, for technological reasons, gluten is added to many other products, in many of which we do not expect to find it. It can be found in meat products - sausages, pâtés, meatballs and tinned meats, in fish and canned fish salads, sometimes also in ready meals like soups, deli products and sauces.


Gluten is also found in some potato chips and even yoghurt, ice cream or drinks. In the form of barley malt it is added to corn flakes and sweets. It is also found in the composition of some medications and dietary supplements.


"Gluten is not harmful for healthy people. We digest it without any problems. On the other hand, people with gluten intolerance, wheat allergy, gluten hypersensitivity definitely should avoid it" - said Dr. Anna Wojtasik.


For people with celiac disease, gluten or wheat allergy or gluten hypersensitivity, gluten free diet is the only choice. Unlike gluten allergy, in celiac disease gluten free diet has to be adhered to throughout the patient's life. Treatment consists in the complete elimination of products containing gluten and replacing them with foods produced from naturally gluten-free raw materials or products from which gluten has been removed by means of technology.


PAP - Science and Scholarship in Poland


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