Entries in Gluten-Free (2)


Gluten Intolerance: When Is it a Full-Blown Allergy?

Peter Dazeley/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Store aisles, markets, bakeries, blogs and books are stocked with food ideas for going gluten-free.  The gluten-free diet has become popular for combating a full-blown gluten allergy known as celiac disease, or more popularly for those with no allergy at all as a means to lose weight and enhance athletic performance.

But researchers say there's a middle ground emerging.  A growing number of people now have a type of gluten intolerance called nonceliac gluten sensitivity, which isn't quite as serious as celiac disease but not to be taken lightly either.  Mounting evidence now suggests the number of people who have nonceliac gluten sensitivity may outnumber those who have full-blown celiac disease.

Celiac disease is a genetic condition that damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing nutrients from food.  The damage is attributed to an autoimmune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and possibly oats.

People with celiac disease are diagnosed through specific blood and bowel tests.  Those with the disease have a higher risk for anemia, osteoporosis, severe intestinal damage and gastrointestinal cancers.

Unlike celiac disease, gluten sensitivity walks a blurry diagnostic line.  There's no definitive way to diagnose the condition like a blood test.  The condition is also not associated with as serious side effects and doesn't have the same genetic markers as celiac disease.

"It's been very tough to qualify and classify given that we did not have a clear definition of what it's all about," said Dr. Alessio Fasano, director of the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

In February, Fasano and more than a dozen international food allergy experts published a consensus report identifying gluten sensitivity as one in a group of gluten spectrum disorders that include wheat allergy and celiac disease.

Sixty million gluten-free products are consumed in the U.S. each day, Fasano said.  But the question remains as to how many of these products are consumed out of medical necessity.

What looks like an increase in the number of people reporting gluten sensitivity may stem from an incorrect diagnosis, according to Italian researchers who published a commentary Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine.  Since there are no standard diagnosing criteria for gluten sensitivity, few patients have been properly diagnosed, the researchers wrote.

Common symptoms of gluten sensitivity include abdominal pain similar to irritable bowel syndrome, fatigue, headaches and a "foggy mind." But these symptoms generally improve or disappear after removing gluten from the diet.´╗┐

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Activists Protest Delayed Gluten-Free Label Standard 

Peter Dazeley/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Food and Drug Administration has dragged its feet in setting a standard for gluten-free foods, say activists who on Wednesday are assembling a one-ton, 15-foot-high gluten-free cake symbolizing how much their lives depend upon strictly avoiding a protein found in most bakery goods, pasta, beer and even some cold cuts and salad dressings.

Organizers of the Gluten-Free Food Labeling Summit in Washington, D.C., want the baked behemoth, assembled by volunteers from 180 half-sheet cakes made with special gluten-free flour in Whole Foods' Gluten-Free Bakehouse, to send a message to Congress and the FDA about the importance of "clear, accurate, reliable labeling" of packaged foods for Americans who must avoid gluten for medical reasons.

They want the FDA to adopt a gluten-free labeling standard that was due in August 2008, under the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) of 2004. Also overdue: an assessment of the proposed gluten standard of 20 parts per million.

The core constituency for gluten-free eating long has been celiac patients whose immune systems recognize gluten as an invader and unleash attacks on the small intestine, producing diarrhea, abdominal pain, along with fatigue, headaches and joint inflammation. Over time, celiac disease can lead to malnourishment, osteoporosis, neurological conditions, and in rarer cases, infertility or cancer.

Despite the explosion of gluten-free offerings at supermarkets, big-box stores (half of gluten-free shoppers buy their products at Walmart, a February 2011 Packaged Facts report found ), and health food stores, celiac patients still find themselves endlessly double-checking ingredient lists. Many call companies to learn if they've paid meticulous attention to preventing potential cross-contamination in the field, during transportation, during milling, and properly washed down equipment that handles foods containing gluten before they do any gluten-free runs.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio´╗┐

ABC News Radio