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The Gluten Project

I wanted to take a closer look at this whole gluten thing. So many people are boycotting it, and even milk cartons are boasting about being gluten free. Is this necessary? Does most of the population have a gluten intolerance, or even worse, celiac disease? Or are we cutting out gluten because so many people are telling us we should? Are grains unhealthy?

Facts on the subject are difficult to find. Most articles are focused on the controversy, with a few educated estimates followed by a vague opinion from the author. That is exactly what you will find in this article. Sorry.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in grains that gives bread it’s consistency and makes it able to rise. It’s two main compounds are gliadin and glutenin.

What is a gluten intolerance?

A gluten intolerance is when your body’s immune system reacts to gliadin as it would react to an invader, such as a harmful bacteria, and attacks it.

What is a wheat allergy?

A wheat allergy is an intolerance of albumin and globulin which are found in wheat only. Those with a wheat intolerance are still able to process other glutenous grains just fine.

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac Disease is a condition where the immune system responds badly to gluten, which damages the villi in the intestine, in turn leaving a person unable to absorb nutrients.

Who has a gluten intolerance?

An estimated 6% of the U.S. population.

Who has a wheat allergy?

An estimated 0.09% of the U.S. population. Of that percentage, 0.04% are children, and of those children, 65% will outgrow the allergy by age 12.

Who has Celiac Disease?

An estimated 1% of the U.S. population.

Who should avoid all gluten?

An estimated 1% of the U.S. population.

Who is avoiding all gluten?

An estimated 30% of the U.S. population.

What are the benefits of wheat?

Wheat contains such nutrients as calcium, potassium, sulfur, zinc, copper, and vitamins B & E. One cup of cooked whole grain wheat contains 55.5% of your daily recommended amount of manganese, 32.7% of your recommended fiber, and 14.5% of your recommended magnesium. It’s shown to help you maintain a healthy weight, help reverse diabetes, and reduce inflammation in the body.

What is the cost comparison for gluten free foods?

One study done in Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia showed that the price of gluten free foods are about 242% higher than their glutenous neighbors.

What other possibilities might be causing the “intolerance” epidemic?

Theory 1: Corn products are in just about everything, especially baked goods where you find gluten. Most of the corn in the U.S. today is genetically modified. GM foods are known to cause food allergies and wreak havoc on the digestive tract, causing intestinal upset similar to that of a person with celiac disease.

Theory 2: The FDA recommends we have 6 – 8 servings of grains per day, and insists that a healthy diet be based on carbohydrates. While I have nothing against carbohydrates, I do believe everything should be done in moderation and for a healthy diet to exist, it needs to be based on a combination of fruits, vegetables, and grains. Maybe our tummy upset is due to an unbalanced diet.

Theory 3: Through the process of intense and unnatural cross-breeding of wheat with non-wheat grasses, Dr. William Davis says that we have increased or changed the shape of gliadin into something that our bodies are no longer able to process. Of course, he is the only one I can find who is making this claim, and he is out to sell his book. This doesn’t mean we should completely negate his opinions, but should take into consideration his possible motives.

In conclusion, I believe there are a lot of healthy people out there who are avoiding gluten for no reason and paying more for gluten free baked goods, to which they will receive no benefit. If you believe you have celiac disease, there are tests that can verify if gluten is something you should avoid completely and forever. If you feel better when you avoid gluten, I would consider whether it’s the lack of gluten or the lack of refined or genetically modified sugars, such as high fructose corn syrup, that is improving your health.

Gluten is not a diet plan and will not help you lose weight if you do not have a true intolerance or celiac disease; I know many heavier people who avoid gluten. If you don’t medically need to jump on this bandwagon, and are doing so anyway, you are cultivating an odd habit rather than a healthier body.