Wednesday, February 13, 2013


During the last one decade there was a dramatic spurt in the development and marketing of gluten free processed foods, especially in the US and Europe. Such foods cater to a special segment of the consumers, viz those afflicted with Celiac disease which can be quite serious in terms daily discomfort and low quality of life such affected persons live through. If the volume of business achieved by this special food industry is any indication, Gluten allergic population must be expanding at an alarming rate! How ever the ground reality is some what different. Many consumers seem to be believing that that have gluten allergy which hampers their growth and over all health. This has created a new category of consumers who do not have Celiac disease but still may have non-Celiac Gluten allergy, unexplainable by to day's knowledge. If gluten free foods have become popular with many consumers it is primarily due to this belief. No one can say that food industry is not happy with such a development! Here is a commentary on this new phenomenon that is driving the gluten-free food products industry.

"Many advocates of gluten-free diets warn that non-celiac gluten sensitivity is a wide, unseen epidemic undermining the health of millions of people. They believe that avoiding gluten — a composite of starch and proteins found in certain grassy grains like wheat, barley and rye — gives them added energy and alleviates chronic ills. Oats, while gluten-free, are also avoided, because they are often contaminated with gluten-containing grains. Others see the popularity of gluten-free foods as just the latest fad, destined to fade like the Atkins diet and avoidance of carbohydrates a decade ago. Indeed, Americans are buying billions of dollars of food labeled gluten-free each year. And celebrities like Miley Cyrus, the actress and singer, have urged fans to give up gluten. "The change in your skin, physical and mental health is amazing!" she posted on Twitter in April. For celiac experts, the anti-gluten zeal is a dramatic turnaround; not many years ago, they were struggling to raise awareness among doctors that bread and pasta can make some people very sick. Now they are voicing caution, tamping down the wilder claims about gluten-free diets. "It is not a healthier diet for those who don't need it," Dr. Guandalini said. These people "are following a fad, essentially." He added, "And that's my biased opinion." Nonetheless, Dr. Guandalini agrees that some people who do not have celiac receive a genuine health boost from a gluten-free diet. He just cannot say how many. As with most nutrition controversies, most everyone agrees on the underlying facts. Wheat entered the human diet only about 10,000 years ago, with the advent of agriculture".

If the main stream population starts patronizing gluten free foods in increasing numbers, a question mark may rise regarding the future of grains like wheat, barley, rye etc. After all wheat based processed foods constitute a substantial portion of the products available in the market and probably it is the "bread and butter" of the food business. Probably such a situation may spur development of wheat varieties devoid of gluten or with gluten modified suitably making them acceptable universally. The ancient Einkorn grain, considered the predecessor of to day's wheat has gluten like protein which is not reported to be as injurious as normal wheat though it is not yet recommended as a safe substitute to those with gluten sensitivity. There appears to be a revival of interest in Einkorn recently because of the above potential. However if gluten free food popularity is just a fad, it is bound to fade sooner or later.


No comments: