March 18, 2013

Gluten For Dummies: Gluten 101


A new survey from market research firm,  The NPD Group finds that America is cutting gluten out of its diet in a big way. Just under one-third of 1,000 respondents agreed with the statement: “I’m trying to cut back/avoid Gluten in my diet.”
That’s the highest level since the company added gluten consumption to the surveys it does about Americans’ eating habits in 2009. TIME labeled the gluten-free movement #2 on its top 10 list of food trends for 2012.

Gluten is a protein found in the grains wheat, barley, and rye. Most of us unknowingly love it, because gluten gives our favorite foods that special touch: It makes pizza dough stretchy, gives bread its spongy texture, and is used to thicken sauces and soups. More about gluten is posted towards the end of the article, but first, I would like  to begin with whys its bad. I found a great article that gives a readable summary of recent research findings having to do with belly fat.  In women, an increase in belly fat leads to a higher risk of heart disease and other illness.
"If bread is the 'staple of life', why is it so bad for you?"

So...Why Gluten is Bad
Wheat is not the same today. It has been agriculturally hybrid,  genetically lab engineered over  decades to resist fungus, grow more quickly, and be more pliable for industrial bread baking. As a consequence, 50-60 years ago wheat containing only five percent gluten has become 50 percent gluten today.

Agricultural resources used the hybrid process for wheat to accommodate the baking industry's mechanical requirements of pliable proteins, leading to the 10-fold increase of wheat's gluten.

The processed food industry's concern for production efficiency and perception of consumer demands has focused on the bottom line with the usual disregard to negative health consequences.

Slightly different high speed methods of baking evolved over time. By artificially bleaching flour and adding "improvers" with often toxic additives and mixing the dough violently, loaves of bread could be baked, cooled, and packaged within a few, short hours. Cheap, unhealthy foods for many with massive profits for a few.

Some Research
The case against gluten seems to have been closed with recent research from a Brazilian research team that published a report in the January 2013 Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. It seems to have put an exclamation point on the wheat belly controversy.

Lacking scientific data confirming the mechanics of how gluten may or may not affect obesity, the study was set up to examine the differences in specific genetic and biochemical markers between rats fed gluten and rats that were kept gluten free.
The "wheat belly" syndrome and how it leads to other health issues was the purpose of their research. The research team chose biological markers that could indicate the onset of obesity and metabolic syndrome, precursors to diabetes and cardiac issues.

Both groups of rats were fed high fat diets. But one group was gluten free and the other group's diet was 4.5 percent gluten. Even without tracing their predetermined markers, it was obvious the gluten free mice exhibited weight loss without any trace of lipid (fat) excretion.

An analysis of the study

Sayer Ji of proposed this analysis: "... the weight gain associated with wheat consumption has little to do with caloric content per se; rather, the gluten proteins ... disrupt endocrine and exocrine processes within the body, as well as directly modulating nuclear gene expression ... to alter mamalian metabolism in the direction of weight gain."

This study, according to Sayer Ji,  proves that the major factor of obesity is gluten, not calories. Considering that both groups of mice were fed high fat diets and the gluten free mice lost weight without excreting lipids also implies that fat free diets for losing weight are bogus.
Sayer Ji recommends that those who are overweight, pre-diabetic, experiencing metabolic syndrome, or suffering from irritable bowel syndrome try avoiding gluten grains, especially wheat, to determine from experience if gluten is the underlying cause.
Proponents of a gluten-free diet report increased energy and endurance levels, clearer overall concentration and a lack of general digestion problems.
For further reading: 

What is Gluten

Gluten (from Latin gluten, "glue") is a protein composite found in foods processed from wheat and related grain species, including barley and rye. Gluten gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keep its shape and often gives the final product a chewy texture. Gluten may also be found in some cosmetics, hair products, and other dermatological preparations.

The seeds of most flowering plants have endosperms with stored protein to nourish embryonic plants during germination. True gluten, with gliadin and glutenin, is limited to certain members of the grass family. The stored proteins of maize and rice are sometimes called glutens, but their proteins differ from true gluten.

  • Gluten forms when glutenin molecules cross-link to form a sub-microscopic network attached to gliadin, which contributes viscosity (thickness) and extensibility to the mix. 
  • If this dough is leavened with yeast, fermentation produces carbon dioxide bubbles, which, trapped by the gluten network, cause the dough to rise. 
  • Baking coagulates the gluten, which, along with starch, stabilizes the shape of the final product. 
  • Gluten content has been implicated as a factor in the staling of bread, possibly because it binds water through hydration.
  • More refining (of the gluten) leads to chewier products such as pizza and bagels, while less refining yields tender baked goods such as pastry products.
  • Generally, bread flours are high in gluten (hard wheat); pastry flours have a lower gluten content. Kneading promotes the formation of gluten strands and cross-links, creating baked product that is chewier in proportion to the length of kneading. An increased moisture content in the dough enhances gluten development, and very wet doughs left to rise for a long time require no kneading (see no-knead bread). Shortening inhibits formation of cross-links and is used, along with diminished water and less kneading, when a tender and flaky product, such as a pie crust, is desired.
  • The strength and elasticity of gluten in flour is measured in the baking industry using a farinograph. This gives the baker a measurement of quality for different varieties of flours in developing recipes for various baked goods.

Added gluten

Gluten, when dried and milled to a powder and added to ordinary flour dough, improves a dough's ability to rise and increases the bread's structural stability and chewiness. Gluten-added dough must be worked vigorously to induce it to rise to its full capacity; an automatic bread machine or food processor may be required for kneading. The added gluten provides supplemental protein to products with low or nonexistent protein levels.

Added to other foods

  • Gluten, especially wheat gluten, is often the basis for imitation meats resembling chicken, duck (mock duck), fish, pork and beef. When cooked in broth, gluten absorbs some of the surrounding liquid (including the taste) and becomes firm to the bite.
  • Gluten is often present in beer and soy sauce, and can be used as a stabilizing agent in more unexpected food products, such as ice cream and ketchup.

There is evidence that gluten can be a factor in gut and psychology syndrome (GAPS) and even autism. (

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...