Gluten is a substance found in the protein of wheat, barley, rye, and other cereals. In fact, it is gluten that allows baking – up to 30% of the weight of bakery flour falls on it. It is also found in any wheat-based food. And here in this article, we’ll investigate why gluten is bad and where the truth is.
Theory about Gluten?
Gluten is a group of proteins found in cereals. Gluten is found not only in all baked goods, white wheat bread, regular pasta, and any pasta but also in food products made with the addition of wheat flour as a thickener (sauces, semi-finished products).
Basically, gluten is able to trap carbon dioxide. It makes the dough porous, which, in combination with the yeast, gives the characteristic airiness when baked. For the same reason, gluten increases gas production in the stomach and introduces a feeling of “full of food” in the stomach.
Also, processed products of wheat starch are used in the cosmetic industry. Gluten can be found in small amounts in powders, mascara, lipstick, toothpaste, and shampoos. While this is harmless for most people, it can be irritating if you are allergic to gluten.
Gluten – in short:
- cereal protein component
- provides an airy structure to the dough when baking
- used as a thickener
- may be contained in cosmetics
“Commoners” About Why Gluten Is Bad
Prior to looking at the “facts and proofs” of “expert nutritionist” let’s see the real one:
The body of some people is not able to digest and assimilate gluten – in itself, an allergy to gluten is expressed in a decrease in immunity and disruption of the gastrointestinal tract. In this case, eating gluten-containing foods is harmful to health and is strictly prohibited.
That’s all for know. Now let’s discuss what are we battling against:
- Nutritionists say that eating gluten-containing foods can harm the metabolism of even those who are not allergic to the substance. Gluten appears to lower the body’s energy requirements for basic metabolism – in other words, it slows down the metabolism.
- In addition, gluten can affect a number of hormones produced in visceral fat. In particular, we are talking about the hunger hormone leptin. As a reminder, obesity is often associated with leptin resistance – the body’s inability to correctly send satiety signals.
- Scientific research in animals showed that gluten-fed individuals gained more weight when following a diet with the same amount of calories. They also had a different composition of adipose tissue – according to the results, the diet with gluten affected the metabolic processes of oxygen.
- The indirect harm of gluten is that it induces fermentation and forms the habit of feeling a “full stomach” after eating. In addition, foods containing gluten absorb moisture and increase their volume significantly during digestion.
- Gradually, a person develops the habit of feeling full of food in the form of a bloated stomach – eating gluten-free foods seems insufficient. Separate harm is caused by the high glycemic index of wheat products with a high level of processing – the use of starchy foods leads to bursts of glucose in the blood, gradually weakening the body’s sensitivity to insulin.
- “20 grams of gluten per day is enough for an increased risk of fetal diabetes: a new study from the Bartholin Institute in Copenhagen argues that it should be avoided by pregnant women. If they consume more than 20 grams of gluten per day, the risk of developing type 1 diabetes in a child is almost twice as high as in a situation where the daily protein intake does not exceed seven grams … “ – Correspondence to K Josefsen.
Spoiler alert: this is hardly true, but rather just the opinion of someone’s brain.
Science About Myths
In an observational study (in which a researcher collects data by simply observing events in their natural course without actively intervening in them; observational studies lose in reliability to controlled studies that compare outcomes in the intervention group and the control group) data from 101,042 pregnancies contained in the National Danish Fertility Register from January 1996 to October 2002 were analyzed.
Data on the number of gluten consumed per day were added to the register based on a questionnaire completed by part of pregnant women (70 188 women out of 91 745 selected for the study) on the 25th week of pregnancy. Also, part of the nutritional data was obtained from mothers who have already given birth, by telephone survey, during the period 18 months after birth, and the Danish register of childhood and adolescent diabetes from January 1996 to May 2016.
The analysis revealed (JUST IMAGINE!) 247 cases of type 1 diabetes among children (0.37% of all 101,042 analyzed pregnancies), the average follow-up period was 15.6 years.
It is worth noting that 522 pregnant women were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes before pregnancy, and 625 pregnant women were diagnosed with gestational diabetes mellitus (one of the variants of diabetes that occurs or is first diagnosed during pregnancy). It means that at least 1,147 mothers were already more likely to face hereditary risks of developing diabetes in their children.
It is not surprising that the study suddenly showed a figure of as much as 247 people, although it could have been much higher since there were more mothers in the risk group. Fortunately, the scientists excluded from the sample future mothers who were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
Despite the high-profile findings and headlines, the scientists themselves state that:
– Cases of the effect of gluten on the risk of developing diabetes are recorded only in animal models (rodents).
Note: this, in fact, means absolutely nothing, because in most cases, specially bred laboratory animals are used so that the desired effect can be more reliably obtained. And, again, the dosages and conditions of interventions on animals, as a rule, do not strongly correlate with the actual consumption of the product used in humans, and mice are not small people, and human research does not show this kind of relationship;
– The statistical power of the study (note: the ability of a (statistical) experiment to elicit an effect when present) was extremely modest (only 247 cases that fit into the expected picture);
– There is also a high probability of the influence on the final result of immeasurable or unidentified factors, which, unfortunately, cannot be completely excluded in observational studies;
– While evaluating the diet of subjects, the questionnaire is inevitably subject to uncertainty due to the inherent difficulty with the accuracy of dietary details that the participants remember. And this is by the way even considering that the collection of reliable data from women at the 25th week of pregnancy will introduce a significantly larger error in the result, so to speak in view of the mother’s cognitive loop over her maternal function;
– As long as scientists did not have the opportunity to involve real patients to collect data, they used the data that was recorded in the registry records earlier;
– Given the modesty of the data obtained, in order to double-check the hypothesis put forward by scientists, other comparable studies are required.
Takeaway: well, although I don’t like looking for black cats in a dark room, I will add that among the main donors of the study are foundations interested in anti-gluten propaganda (well, at least they fund more than one such study on the dangers of gluten): «Kirsten and Freddy Johansens Foundation,» «the March of Dimes Foundation,» «Innovation Fund Denmark,» «Sygekassernes Helsefond.»
The Bottom Line
As a result, the practical conclusions that can be drawn from this work are not very encouraging. They are encouraging for the authors of high-profile headlines that “scientists from science have proved.”
The extremely modest data obtained (0.37% of the entire sample participating in the study) on the relationship of diabetes in children and the consumption of gluten in their mothers during pregnancy cannot be considered reliable. Moreover, they are not confirmed by any studies on humans, and even this study is not confirmed.
And the incidence of diabetes in children at risk (i.e., whose mothers either already had diabetes at the time of pregnancy, or had a hereditary predisposition to it), can hardly be attributed solely to gluten.
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