The untold about the ‘Gluten-free question’

Evolution in human diet and Celiac disease

During the past decades, human consumption and eating habits underwent a great change. In fact, human diets have changed more in the last century than along the previous 3 million years (Lemerond, 2018).

Studies conducted on consumer behaviour show that nowadays, people are more and more inclined to consume ready-to-eat meals and easy-to-prepare foods. The main key elements that act as a catalyst in the process of changing human diet are technological changes in the food industry, hectic lifestyles (time pressure) and low awareness of health threats (Contini, Romano, Scozzafava & Casini, 2016, p.3-14). All these factors lead to significant changes in the way people consume food and what kind of food they actually eat. This change in diet is a fact that cannot be ignored and obviously reflects on human health conditions.

Due to this change in human consumption, diet-related diseases have considerably increased. As claims the nutritionist Kate Skinner (2012), the incidence of obesity and other diet-related illnesses such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, hypertension and some forms of cancer have skyrocketed in Western developed countries in the last hundred years. 

An important category of diet-related diseases that freshly emerged on the market and started occurring more and more often along the past two decades are autoimmune disorders, in particular the gluten intolerance and wheat allergy. But what actually is gluten? What is Celiac disease? What are the symptoms, causes and potential treatment for the gluten intolerance?  The answer to all these questions can be found below.

The real question we should be asking, however, is: What is the real cause of the gluten intolerance?  Gluten has always existed, why is it such a problem today? Why does the percentage of people suffering from Celiac disease increasing every year?

Over the last two decades, intolerances and allergies to different kinds of food – milk and lactose, wheat and gluten, eggs, soy, nuts, lupin, etc. – are more and more frequent (Mahdavinia, 2019). These entire products were widely accepted by consumers in the past. Today, however, the market for ‘free-from’ products keeps on increasing. Why does today’s population have problems to accept food products, which were the basis of nutrition and human diet centuries and even decades ago? How did bread, the basis of the human diet, became a product causing allergies, digestion issues and villous atrophy.

In order to answer this question and understand the whole question about gluten, and gluten intolerance, it is important to have a general overview of the overall context of this problem. The following points will, therefore, be discussed:

To sum up, the increase in the number of allergic people is an accumulation of several problems related to the evolution of our diet and industrialization of our food and especially bread industry: Switching from sourdough to baking powder reduced the gluten degradation in bread dough; developing genetically modified wheat varieties with a higher gluten content (up to 69% prolamine) in order to facilitate the bread-making process; application of herbicides which makes the gluten more aggressive; addition of gluten in various products as a buffer and binder. These all are aspects that lead towards the increasing number of wheat allergies and gluten intolerances through the whole world’s population.