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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Find out for yourself if gluten free is necessary

Joe Marchilena

While I was in Milwaukee last month, I had the opportunity to tour the Lakefront Brewery, the city’s largest craft brewer and the makers of the first gluten-free beer to be granted a label approval from the U.S. government.

Lakefront’s New Grist is certified gluten-free, meaning it is brewed without wheat or barely and can be enjoyed by those with celiac disease. ...

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While I was in Milwaukee last month, I had the opportunity to tour the Lakefront Brewery, the city’s largest craft brewer and the makers of the first gluten-free beer to be granted a label approval from the U.S. government.

Lakefront’s New Grist is certified gluten-free, meaning it is brewed without wheat or barely and can be enjoyed by those with celiac disease.

As I’m sure you know, New Grist is not the only product in the world that’s gluten-free. In fact, estimates show that sales of gluten-free products could reach as much as $15 billion in 2016, according to market research company Mintel. It’s such a big industry, earlier this year, Trader Joe’s joked it was selling gluten-free greeting cards – inedible of course.

But if the University of Chicago’s Celiac Disease Center estimates that only 1 percent of Americans have the disease, why do almost 20 percent of adults in the country buy gluten-free products?

Because there are a lot of people out there who believe it means that product is healthier, and there are more people who believe they are non-celiac gluten sensitive, a label given to people who were believed to be sensitive by Peter Gibson, a researcher at Monash University. In 2011, Gibson finished a study that diets containing gluten – protein found in grains – can cause gastroinestinal stress in people without celiac.

Despite the results of the study, Gibson wasn’t convinced that so many people needed a gluten-free diet, so he conducted another study. This one involved almost 40 patients who had given themselves the gluten-sensitive label.

For the study, they were given every meal, with everything that might cause gastrointestinal discomfort removed. Oh, and Gibson collected their waste for nine days, which means it was a really serious study.

This time, Gibson found “no specific response to gluten,” as he wrote in the journal Gastroenterology. A third, larger study, done at the Eastern Health Clinical School at Monash and at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, confirmed the results from Gibson’s second study.

One reason for the distress found in the first study could be FODMAPS – short chain carbohydrates, which are also found in a lot of foods that have gluten.

So maybe you’re not gluten-sensitive, maybe it’s just the FODMAPS. Either way, maybe you should stop eating foods that contain both.

“Most heavy gluten-containing foods are simply not nutrient dense, meaning they don’t provide many vitamins and minerals in exchange for the large amount of calories they bring,” said Shelby Young, one of the personal trainers at Hampshire Hills. “If someone without celiac is eating gluten-free brownies or cookies because they believe that is somehow healthier than the original, then they’ve already missed the boat.”

If you believe there’s a specific food that’s causing your body distress, there’s a simple way to find out – stop eating it.

“Eliminate any foods you suspect to be problematic for at least two weeks, but preferably 30 days, and then try adding them back in one at a time for a week,” Young said. “Keep track of GI distress, mood, weight, energy, skin condition, sleep, joint discomfort, and that way you have conducted a detailed, self-experiement.”

Science – it just isn’t for the researchers any more.

Joe Marchilena writes a weekly fitness column for Hampshire Hills. To find out more information about the “90 Day Commit to Get Fit” program, call 603-673-7123 or e-mail hhinfo@hampshirehills.com.