Newswise — CHICAGO—The U.S. Senate deemed September 13, 2012 as “National Celiac Awareness Day” to bring attention to the 2.1 million adults in the U.S. who must avoid gluten in their diets. In the December issue of Food Technology magazine published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), Senior Editor Don Pszczola writes how the food industry has risen to meet the challenge of providing millions of Americans with good tasting and safe gluten-free products. A video and fact sheet on gluten is also available on IFT’s Food Facts website.
Gluten is the protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and spelt that gives dough its elasticity, helps it to rise, and keep its shape. It’s because of gluten that baked goods have their characteristic texture, strength and crumb structure. People with celiac disease must avoid all gluten in their diets, and because 1 in 133 people are afflicted with celiac disease, and another 18 million Americans may be gluten intolerant (Celiac Sprue Association), the food industry has had to come up with new solutions to feed the population with gluten-free, good tasting, and nutritious alternatives.
Common issues in gluten-free bakery products include reduced volume and a dry, crumbly, grainy texture that consumers find unsatisfying. As an alternative, companies are using flour made from ancient grains like amaranth, millet, quinoa, sorghum, and teff, as well as brown rice, corn and tapioca starch. These formulations achieve optimal texture, flavor, appearance, and functionality in a variety of grain-based foods. Breads, tortillas, muffins, cereals, cookies, cakes, pasta, pizza, soups, and even soy sauce are now available to gluten-free consumers.
While gluten-free products are on the rise, it’s important to note that these foods are specifically designed for those individuals who suffer from celiac disease or gluten sensitivities and not for those looking to eat more healthfully or lose weight. The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics indicates that there is no benefit of a gluten-free diet for the average healthy adult. It disputes the perception that going gluten-free is an effective way to lose weight and may in fact lead to weight gain because of extra sugar and fat often added to gluten-free foods to improve taste.
An IFT video discusses what gluten is and how people with celiac disease and a gluten-sensitivity react to it. It also shows ways that the food science industry has worked to create gluten-free products that are appealing, taste good, and are easily identifiable on grocery store shelves.
For more than 70 years, IFT has existed to advance the science of food. Our nonprofit scientific society—more than 18,000 members from more than 100 countries—brings together food scientists, technologists and related professions from academia, government, and industry. For more information, please visit ift.org.