Gluten-free diet, a good or bad idea?

Ingredient Spotlight 20 February 2021

What is gluten?

This is a term derived from the Latin meaning ‘to stick’ and corresponds to what is left after the washing out of starches and soluble wheat components. Gluten is a protein found in wheat and other cereals: rye, barley and oats in a lesser amount.


An increasingly gluten-containing diet

Gluten is what gives bread dough its elasticity and allows it to rise. In order to respond to the food industry and consumer demand (nicely risen bread..), wheat has been especially selected for high gluten content. These are called “hard wheats”. Certain manufacturers are only too ready to increase the amount of gluten in their products to make them lighter, airier and fluffier.


Coeliac disease

Those affected by coeliac disease represent around 1% of the North American population. Coeliac disease is a severe gluten intolerance, either present at birth or later diagnosed. Those suffering from this disease most often experience diarrhoea, abdominal discomfort, sometimes delayed growth or fertility problems.

In fact, gluten intolerance results in a sort of ‘scouring’ of the intestine, which in turn causes digestive issues such as malabsorption or even mineral loss through faeces. Vitamin B12, folate, B6, iron, Vitamin D, magnesium, copper and zinc deficiencies are also all very common and can sometimes have severe consequences, including anaemia, osteoporosis, neuropathy and delayed puberty.


Non-coelic gluten sensitivity

More and more non-coeliac individuals are turning to a gluten-free diet to get rid of gut problems, auto-immune allergies or psychiatric issues (dementia, concentration problems).

According to Dr Seignalet, gluten intolerance would be responsible for numerous illnesses including faster aging, especially in athletes.

Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride MD, neurologist and nutritionist, suggests that gluten would also have a role to play in autism, learning difficulties, hyperactivity and even schizophrenia.


Current controversy

Those against a gluten-free diet often believe that it is only a ‘fashion’ followed by a few individuals and high level athletes..

They often argue that..

1. Food naturally contain gluten (wholewheat grains for example) and are an essential source of fibre, vitamins and minerals.

2. Consuming large amounts of gluten is statistically associated with a reduction in blood lipid levels, oxidative stress, blood pressure and coronary disease risk.

3. A long-term study analysing the relationship between consuming gluten and risk of type-2 diabetes has also potentially shown that this risk was reduced when consuming gluten.


My advice

– Gluten itself has no added nutritional value and there is no such thing as gluten deficiency.

– The ‘advantages’ attributed to consuming gluten are most likely linked to the presence of fibre and micronutrients in wholewheat grains (most definitely not in refined grains).

– Fibre and micronutrients are also present in other cereals (rice, for example), legumes, fruits and vegetables!

– If suffering from digestive issues or chronic illness, it might be interesting to give a glutenfree a go! After all, we are all allowed to make up our own mind. However, just make sure that gluten is fully eliminated, as simply reducing the amount consumed will not allow you to see any changes.


Manufactured ‘gluten-free’ foods, a false friend!

Unfortunately, the food industry has only been too keen to take advantage of this increasing ‘trend’ of gluten free diets.

Initially made to ease the symptoms of those suffering from coeliac disease, ‘gluten free’ products were everywhere to be found, but at much higher prices than their ‘normal’ equivalents. In order to obtain products similar to their ‘original’ version, manufacturers often add a significant number of additives to things such as rice flour, cornflour and potato flour.

So what does this mean? The food products simply end up tasteless, expensive, with a high GI index and full of additives!

So what should I do? By all means, eating gluten-free is a great idea, but just make sure to choose foods that are naturally gluten free.


Good to know

– Proteins: meat, fish, seafood, eggs, dairy…

– Fruit and vegetable

– Nuts

– Legumes : lentils, beans, chickpeas, quinoa

– Some cereals : rice, millet, buckwheat, sorghum

– Oils and other fats

Watch out ! All manufactured are likely to contain gluten so make sure to read the labels


References :

• Dr Seignalet “L’alimentation ou la 3ème médecine”

• Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride MD, “Gut and Psychology Syndrome”

• Naik RD, Seidner DL, Adams DW. Nutritional Consideration in Celiac Disease and

Nonceliac Gluten Sensitivity. Gastroenterol. Clin. North Am.2018;47(1):139-154. doi:

10.1016/j.gtc.2017.09.006. PMID: 29413009

• Lebwohl B, Cao Y, Zong G et al. Long term gluten consumption in adults without

celiac disease and risk of coronary heart disease: prospective cohort study. BMJ

2017;357:j1892 | doi: 10.1136/bmj.j1892

• Leonard MM et al. Celiac Disease and Nonceliac Gluten Sensitivity. JAMA.

2017;318(7):647-656. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.9730.

• Zong G, Lebwohl B, Hu FB et al. Gluten intake and risk of type 2 diabetes in three

large prospective cohort studies of US men and women. Diabetologia