Only 1 percent of the world’s population suffer from the infamous gluten intolerance, but a gluten-free diet is, for some reason, practiced by a much larger number of people.
Let’s talk about the concept
Gluten is a proteinaceous substance contained in cereal grains, and it’s insoluble in water. When wheat flour is rinsed with cold water, the gluten it contains swells, but the starch component forms pellets that are suspended in the water.
Celiac disease is a genetic predisposition that makes people intolerant to any foods containing gluten. This is one of the forms of enteropathy that affects the small intestine in children and adults.
According to a report by the World Gastroenterology Organization, from February 2005, the prevalence of celiac disease in the healthy adult population ranges from about 1 in 100 to 1 in 300 people in most parts of the world. Patients with celiac disease shouldn’t eat wheat, rye or barley in their daily food consumption in any shape or form. In adults, celiac disease is diagnosed on average 10 years after the first symptoms appear. Patients with active (clinically manifested) celiac disease have an increased risk of death compared with the general population. However, this increased risk of death returns to normal after three to five years of strict compliance with a gluten-free diet.
Who needs a gluten-free diet?
A rampant fad for gluten-free foods has taken place in recent years, but it doesn’t bring those who observe this diet any real benefits. This valuable vegetable protein doesn’t do any harm to most people. The exceptions are those suffering from celiac disease, a genetic disorder in which gluten intake leads to indigestion and other symptoms.
However celiac disease affects only 1% of the world’s population. The majority of opponents “diagnose” this disease on their own, without having any genuine reason to.
Professor of Gastroenterology Peter Gibson from Monash University in Melbourne conducted an experiment in which participants who claimed they had “gluten intolerance” (they actually didn’t), received different kinds of food with a high and low gluten content, as well as placebos. None of the tested groups showed any abnormalities or specific reactions, except in cases of self-hypnosis, or the predictable consequences of overeating.