Grain drainage: should everyone adopt a gluten-free diet?

Grain Drainage: Should Everyone Adopt A Gluten-free Diet?

About 1% of people cant process gluten, yet endorsements from celebrities allied with health fears mean the free-from marketplace is booming among non-coeliacs. Are the benefits real?

Grain Drainage: Should Everyone Adopt A Gluten-free Diet?

It’s hard to imagine a high-street fashion chain selling something that jokily referenced irritable bowel syndrome or a nut allergy. Yet last year, Zara brought out a T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan:” Are you gluten-free ?” Understandably, coeliacs– those people who cannot process gluten- were furious over what they ensure as a trivialising of their condition, and the chain was forced to apologise and pull the item. The implication was clear: gluten-free diets were current trends- something for the style conscious to buy into, rather than a medical necessity.

The many celebrities who avoid gluten for non-medical reasons don’t help: Victoria Beckham is said to follow a gluten-free diet because it helps her maintain her weight down, while Gwyneth Paltrow writes in her book It’s All Good that” every single nutritionist, doctor and health-conscious person I have ever come across … seems to concur that[ gluten] is tough on the system and many of us are at best intolerant of it and at worst allergic to it “. Miley Cyrus, who once labelled gluten “crappp”, is evangelical about the benefits of devoting it up:” Everyone should try no gluten for a week. The altered in your scalp, physical and mental health is astonishing .”

The wellness brigade is, of course , no big fan of gluten either- the Hemsley sisters describe it as a common” intestine irritant “. Even the world of professional sport has forsaken the traditional carb-loading pasta parties. Most pro-cycling teams are now on “gluten-moderate” diets, and Novak Djokovic credits his rise to superstardom to a Serbian doctor who diagnosed a gluten sensitivity merely by watching the tennis player on television, and then persuaded him to cut it out of his diet. He immediately felt better, Djokovic says:” I was lighter, quicker, clearer in mind and spirit … I could tell, the moment I woke up each morning, that I was different than I had been, perhaps since childhood. I sprang out of bed, ready to tear into the day ahead .”

Jasmine - Grain Drainage: Should Everyone Adopt A Gluten-free Diet?
Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley: no fans of gluten. Photograph: S Meddle/ ITV/ Rex/ Shutterstock

In the foreword to Serve to Win, the gluten-free diet volume Djokovic subsequently released to inspire the rest of us to follow suit, cardiologist Dr William Davis writes that modern ranges of wheat, quite apart from their inclination to contribute to everything from ulcerative colitis to schizophrenia, have” its full potential to cripple performance, cloud mental focus and bringing a champion to his knees “.

With press like that it’s little wonder that 8% of us report avoiding gluten as part of a healthy lifestyle, compared to only 5% of the British population that does so because of an allergy or fanaticism. According to Mintel, 12% of new food products launched in the UK in 2015 were gluten free- Sainsbury’s almost doubled the number of products in its Freefrom aisle last autumn- while global sales of gluten-free foods jumped 12.6% in 2016 to $3.5 bn. That is an awful plenty of rice crackers.

But what is this bogeyman, this” modern poison”, as Dr David Perlmutter, writer of the hugely successful, if widely mocked, volume Grain Brain, terms it? For all its terrifying reputation, gluten is nothing more than got a couple of proteins found in wheat and other cereals that help devote bread, pasta and so on their characteristic structure and texture. When dough is kneaded, the protein strands stretch out and interlink to form a strong, but elastic network that traps air and helps bread to rise. The reason that bread made from wheat flour is so much lighter and taller than, say, an all-rye loaf is that the gluten in wheat is especially suited to the task.

About 1% of the UK population is thought to suffer from coeliac disease, a serious auto-immune condition( rather than the 5% with an intolerance or allergy) in which the body missteps substances in gluten for threats, and assaults them, injury the surface of the bowels and thus the ability to absorb nutrients. This is why, as well as abdominal pain and bloating, symptoms often include fatigue and unexpected weight loss. The illnes appears to be becoming more common, although no one is sure why. If you are worried you might be affected, then consult your doctor as soon as is practicable, before it can do any more damage.

Man - Grain Drainage: Should Everyone Adopt A Gluten-free Diet?
Supermarkets have been quick to cater to the growing demand for’ free-from’ products. Photograph: Alamy

Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity is more complicated, because although sufferers report many of the same symptoms as coeliacs, there are no specific diagnostic tests available. Anecdotal proof suggests that many people feel better after giving up gluten, but there is a school of thought that points the finger of blamed at other components that are removed from the diet at the same time: the catchily named fermentable oligo-, di- and monosaccharides and polyols, generally abbreviated to Fodmaps. These are also found in a variety of fruit, vegetables, beans and dairy products, and take some time for the gut to break and process. In the meantime, they ferment, making gas that can lead to bloating, flatulence and other unpleasant digestive grievances. Again, if you suspect this may be your problem, talk to a doctor before cutting anything out.

Then there are the rest of us- the 8% who avoid gluten since they are believe it to be healthier for them, rather than because they have a specific fanaticism. This grouping has helped to increase the availability of gluten-free options for the 5% of allergy or fanaticism sufferers almost exponentially- while also, some believe, undermining the public perception of the seriousness of their condition. Although most of us could do with cutting back on our processed carbohydrate consumption , not only is there no evidence that removing gluten from the diet has any benefits for non-coeliacs- apart from its possible replacing by more veggies and pulses- but some studies have shown that it may actually be a bad thing.

For a start, although the Hemsleys may advocate replacing grains with indisputably good things such as kelp pot noodles and black bean brownies, most of us reach for the kind of products that make up for any deficiencies in the gluten department with an extra helping of sugar, fat and salt. A cake is a cake, whether it’s made from wheat or not, and “gluten-free” is certainly not synonymous with “healthy”, as a recent survey by the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology Hepatology and Nutrition detected. After comparing 654 products to similar items containing gluten, it found that the gluten-free versions had a significantly higher fat content and were often less nutritious than their ordinary equivalents.

In fact, according to American research published in the British Medical Journal in May, avoiding gluten may actually lead to an increased risk of heart disease for non-coeliacs if it involves cutting out whole grains from the diet. Researchers concluded that” promotion of gluten-free diets among people without[ coeliac] cancer should not be encouraged “. Another, smaller, study published in the journal Epidemiology found that arsenic levels were almost twice as high among the persons on a gluten-free diet as those feeing ordinarily, while mercury levels were 70% higher in the gluten-free group. The authors speculated this could be because rice, a crop notorious for soaking up metals from the local environment, is often used as a wheat substitute, but this is just a theory.

So, if you don’t have a medical issue around gluten, I implore you- on behalf of the thousands of people who would love to, but really can’t: please, shut up and have a crumpet.

Read more:

Grain Drainage: Should Everyone Adopt A Gluten-free Diet?
Grain Drainage: Should Everyone Adopt A Gluten-free Diet?
Grain Drainage: Should Everyone Adopt A Gluten-free Diet?
Grain Drainage: Should Everyone Adopt A Gluten-free Diet?
Grain Drainage: Should Everyone Adopt A Gluten-free Diet?

Grain Drainage: Should Everyone Adopt A Gluten-free Diet?

Grain Drainage: Should Everyone Adopt A Gluten-free Diet?

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