Gluten: Advantages and Disadvantages


Focus on gluten

What is it ?

Although gluten contains lipids (5 to 10%), carbohydrates and minerals, most of its constituents are protein compounds (75 to 85%). More specifically, it is the insoluble protein fraction that is obtained by removing the starch and soluble constituents of the cereal grain. This protein complex can be divided into two large fractions by their solubility in water / alcohol solutions: soluble prolamins and insoluble glutenins.

Where is gluten found?

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These proteins are naturally present in the main cereal species such as wheat, barley, oats or rye. Gluten is therefore also found in all products whose composition includes one of these cereals (bread, pasta, semolina, pizza dough, laminated, etc …). In addition, many food additives used in industry come from wheat (starch). It is therefore found in a wide range of products. His presence can sometimes be difficult to suspect.

What’s the point ?

It is thanks to this gluten that we can make pasta. It ensures the smooth running of the bread making stages thanks to the consecutive reactions induced by the formation of gluten. Indeed, gluten is formed during the kneading of the dough thanks to the hydration of the flour. This formed protein network will allow during fermentation to achieve a gas retention. It thus promotes the swelling of the dough. Finally, during cooking, the proteins will be denatured and promote the digestibility of the food. The choice of flour (more or less rich in gluten) has a direct influence on the organoleptic properties of the finished product.

Gluten causing certain pathologies

This protein network is incriminated in the appearance of certain pathologies. Indeed, it can cause the appearance of celiac disease, food allergy to wheat and hypersensitivity to non-celiac gluten.

What is Celiac disease

This disease is a permanent intolerance to one or more gluten protein fractions. It causes a destruction of the villi of the gastric wall which leads in the long run to a malabsorption of nutrients. Celiac disease is therefore at the origin of nutritional deficiencies including iron, calcium and folic acid .

For the symptoms, those most frequently encountered are: chronic diarrhea, weight loss, abdominal distension, nutritional deficiencies, abdominal pain, stomatitis, chronic fatigue, osteoporosis and stunting in children. The rarest manifestations include dermatitis herpetiformis in the form of small, clustered blisters, predominant on the posterior surface of the body. However, this is not considered a complication of celiac disease but as a cutaneous expression of the disease. The celiac crisis is also a rare manifestation putting the life of the person in danger, mainly observed in the children, which is characterized by a severe diarrhea, a hypoproteinemia as well as metabolic and electrolytic imbalances.

Wheat allergy

wheat allergy
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Allergic reactions to wheat protein can be caused by different types of exposure: inhalation, ingestion or contact. However, exposure by inhalation or contact only concerns people working with products containing gluten such as bakers or pastry cooks. The symptoms may be similar to those of celiac disease: chronic malabsorption-type diarrhea, breakage of the growth curve and abdominal bloating. However, wheat allergy is more often manifested by anaphylactic-like symptoms: urticaria and angioedema. They can also develop atopic dermatitis (eczema) and other food allergies by inheritance.

Hypersensitivity to non-celiac gluten

Apart from celiac disease or wheat allergy, symptomatic reactions associated with it but not correlated with allergic or autoimmune mechanisms have been discovered. These reactions are called “non-celiac gluten sensitivity”, “gluten sensitivity” or “non-celiac gluten hypersensitivity”. The symptoms of hypersensitivity to non-celiac gluten can be of both digestive and extra-digestive origin. The digestive symptoms are similar to those of irritable bowel syndrome: abdominal pain, gas, bloating or irregular transit (alternation between constipation and diarrhea).

Only known effective treatment: the gluten-free diet

The G-Free diet consists of the total and definitive exclusion of gluten. This diet is all the more difficult to respect as, as said before, it is found in many staple foods but also in foods from the agri-food industry. The indications for this diet are mainly celiac disease, wheat allergy and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

However, we find in some scientific publications the use of this diet for other very varied indications such as for the treatment of certain psychiatric diseases (schizophrenia or autism), endocrine or rheumatological disorders and improving the capacities sports . The effectiveness of the gluten-free diet on these pathologies is very controversial and is not yet proven. At the same time, there is a real trend towards “G-free” as a mode of consumption for a search for well-being, especially for slimming down.

To learn more : contact Shivani Sikri : Best Dietician in India

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