For years now millions of us have been buying gluten-free produce in an effort to

eat more healthily but a recent study has found that foods without gluten are
no healthier for most people than those foods containing the substance. The
study was carried out by research fellows at the University of Sydney’s George
Institute for Global Health who analysed over 3,000 different foods from Australian
supermarkets to see if there was a nutritional difference between those foods
labelled “gluten-free” and the equivalent food which contain gluten.

There has been a growing perception from consumers that gluten-free products are
healthier for non-coeliac suffers too which has seen a huge growth in the
gluten-free market in recent years. The experiment was carried out on “staple
foods” like bread and pasta and “discretionary foods” like cakes and cookies.
No major differences were found in nutritional value between gluten and
gluten-free of the discretionary foods but with the staple foods they found
significantly less protein in the gluten-free food than the regular versions of
the same food. The gluten-free pasta contained 52% less protein on average than
the regular pasta but the foods contained a relatively similar level of sugar
and sodium. They found in addition to this that the gluten-free foods have less
vitamins and minerals than the regular foods making them no healthier to eat
for those who are not coeliac sufferers.

So why then is gluten intolerance on the rise? The typical symptoms of a gluten
intolerance are bloating, fatigue and headaches which in reality could be
attributed to many different lifestyle choices. Even drinking more water could
help relieve some of these symptoms but with self-diagnosis on google these
days anyone can match their symptoms up and claim to be gluten intolerant. The health
foods industry is worth hundreds of billions of dollars and clever marketing
techniques are used to convince you to buy their product over their gluten-free
counterparts. So with people picking up gluten-free junk food thinking it is
healthier, this has become a real worry. Gluten-free diets have also been made
increasingly popular in recent years by celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow
swearing by the health benefits which could be another reason for the rise of
gluten intolerances.

So what is coeliac disease and how do you know if you have it? The NHS describe it
as a “common autoimmune condition where a person has an adverse reaction to
gluten.” Eating food containing gluten can cause symptoms such as;




Abdominal pain


Children not growing at the normal rate

With Coeliac disease, the immune system mistakes gluten as a threat to the body and
attacks it which in turn damages the surface of the small intestine and reduces
the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. The symptoms of coeliac disease are
quite dramatic compared with those of a so called ‘intolerance’ so if you have
such an extreme reaction when eating gluten it is advisable to seek medical
advice and find out more. And remember, don’t waste your money on expensive
gluten-free foods unless you really need to, they aren’t any healthier for you
and you could be finding yourself a victim of very clever advertising.