Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, one of Australia’s best-known scientists, isn’t convinced that gluten intolerance is as big of an issue as many people make it out to be.
Speaking to the Courier Mail, the 69-year-old insisted that he wasn’t trying to divide opinions so based his views on scientific and medical facts alone when he said that just eight out of every 1,000 Aussies suffered from “genuine gluten sensitivity and coeliac disease”.
A further eight have a soft version of intolerance where they get a rash or tummy trouble when eaten gluten, he said. “So that’s 16 out of 1,000,” Dr Karl continued. “Another 280 out of every 1,000 Australians will go out of their way to buy gluten-free food because they think it’s healthier. If you look at what gluten-free has in it, it’s higher in fat, higher in salt, lower in nutrients and between two-to-four times the price.”
He said people needed to rethink their gluten-free diet, particularly if they weren’t intolerant in the first place.
People who actually suffer from coeliac disease can show a variety of severe symptoms when they consume gluten. According to Health Direct, there are an array of ways these symptoms can present themselves, including severe diarrhoea or constipation, nasty rashes or bruises, aching bones and joints, painful mouth ulcers, irritable and discomfort in the stomach, feelings of nausea and flatulence. For these people, it is advised that they don’t eat products that contain gluten for the benefit of their health.
But recent research backs up Dr Karl’s suggestion that that people who eat gluten-free products and are not living with a coeliac disease or diagnosed gluten intolerance could be putting their health at risk, not to mention their food budget given the extra expense of special foods.
While many products on the market suggest that gluten-free is the way to go for a healthier lifestyle, research published by the Harvard School of Public Health found that regular consumption of these products could be doing more harm than good.
A study of more than 100,000 people without coeliac disease found that there was no link between gluten consumption and heart disease. Furthermore, research suggested that consuming gluten-free products could actually increase the chance of heart disease in people who don’t have a gluten intolerance.
The study also pointed out that most healthy diets require gluten products as they contain vital components for our health including vitamin B, magnesium and iron. People who don’t include gluten in their diet usually need to take supplements to make up for the lack of these vitamins in their food.
Grains that contain gluten include wheat berries, durum, spelt and farro, but it can also be found in an array of other products including medications and vitamins, pasta, cereals, pastries and even beer. Items such as corn, red rice and oats tend to be naturally gluten-free when not mixed or contaminated with other foods.