Get the Facts on Gluten-Free
Recently, many individuals in the United States have made the decision to “go gluten-free”. Is this diet a matter of medical necessity or just another glorified dietary “fad”? Before you jump on the gluten-free band wagon, know the facts.
WHAT is gluten? Gluten is the protein portion of grains. It is found in all products containing wheat, rye, oats and barley.
WHO is unable to digest gluten? Individuals suffering from the genetic, autoimmune disorder Celiac Disease are gluten intolerant. This diagnosis is made through a blood test or an endoscopy. When gluten intolerant individuals attempt to digest gluten, an immune response is triggered within the body resulting in inflammation of the small intestine. This inflammation can inhibit the absorption of essential nutrients such as iron, folic acid and calcium.
WHY is the gluten-free diet so crucial for individuals with Celiac Disease? There is only one known treatment for Celiac Disease and that is following a gluten free diet. If proper dietary precautions are not taken, the severity of the disease increases. Symptoms of Celiac Disease include abdominal cramping, gas, bloating of the stomach, diarrhea, constipation, anemia and weight loss. For otherwise healthy individuals not diagnosed with Celiac Disease, a gluten-free diet may result in essential nutrient deficiencies and therefore is not recommended. Contrary to popular belief, there is currently no evidence to suggest that the gluten-free diet is a healthier alternative or supports weight loss.
WHEN did awareness surrounding Celiac Disease begin to grow? Before the 1990’s, there was little knowledge among the public about Celiac Disease as professionals did not recognize it as a major public health problem. However, as a result of focused screenings, awareness regarding the prevalence of Celiac Disease has risen. Currently 1% of the population or about 1 in every 133 people have been diagnosed.
WHERE can you go to learn about finding gluten-free options in the Rutgers University Dining Halls? Rutgers Dining Services has a system in place to meet the nutritional needs of students with all types of special dietary requirements, including Celiac Disease. Naturally gluten-free foods can be found in the dining halls on a regular basis and specialty gluten-free products are available upon request, with medical documentation of need. Contact the Rutgers Dietitian, Peggy Policastro, MS, RD at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about gluten-free dining.
No Need To Be A Gluten For Punishment!
Author: Jessica McKinley Reviewed By: Peggy Policastro, MS, RD, Dept. of Nutritional Sciences
References: Niewinski MM. Advances in celiac disease and gluten-free diet. J Am Diet Assoc [online]. 2008; 108:661-672. Available from: SciVerse ScienceDirect. Accessed December 10, 2011. Gaesser GA, Angadi SS. Gluten-Free Diet: Imprudent Dietary Advice for the General Population? J Am Diet Assoc. 2012: 112 (9):1330-1333.