SHA Magazine Healthy Nutrition

Does gluten deserve its bad reputation?

SHA Magazine
February 29, 2024

Gluten is the protein in wheat and is of natural origin. However, it is one of the nutrients that has gained the worst reputation in recent decades. As well as coeliac disease – the disease characterised by the intestines being unable to process gluten – different degrees of sensitivity to gluten have developed.

One theory is that there is a lot of hidden gluten in foods that we don’t even suspect, and this leads to an over-consumption of the protein, which could explain the increase in intolerance.

“The fear of gluten must be removed. There are people who should not ingest it because they are coeliac or have a sensitivity, but many other people are fine with it”, says María Romeralo, nutritional consultant at SHA Wellness Clinic, adding: “then there are people whose digestive system is in poor condition and so gluten inflames it. In such cases we do not recommend having gluten for a while, but then gradually reintroduce it”.

“For most people, gluten is not a health problem, but there are others for whom it can cause harm due to specific conditions related to its consumption, such as coeliacs or people with non-coeliac gluten sensitivity,” she says. Mariel Silva, a specialist in Well-ageing medicine at SHA Wellness Clinic.

Dr Silva explains that there are some theories suggesting that changes in wheat production over the years have led to genetic modification and increased gluten content in some crops that may be increasing sensitivity to this protein. However, Dr Silva points out that the scientific evidence is “limited and controversial”.

She believes that other dietary and lifestyle changes may be contributing to the perception of an increase in gluten intolerance. For example, increased consumption of ultra-processed foods, which leads to long-term gut damage and some imbalance in the gut microbiota.

“We must also bear in mind that improved diagnostic methods and greater medical awareness mean that we can identify cases of sensitivities and intolerances that previously went unnoticed,” says Dr Silva. She adds that “the population is also better informed and information is more accessible than ever, and this leads to a perception that gluten intolerance and sensitivity is increasing, although when the prevalence figures are reviewed, no such increase is observed”.

“It’s worse to eat gluten-free foods that are over-processed,” says the SHA Wellness Clinic nutritionist, who recommends eating more foods such as vegetables and pulses (which are naturally gluten-free in their composition) instead of consuming countless processed products that are labelled ‘gluten-free’, but which in the end are nothing more than an ultra-processed product with no real nutritional value. She also suggests looking at the labels of what we eat, and not eating anything with more than four or five ingredients.

“Gluten is inflammatory, that’s true, but for me sugar is much worse, and instead of cutting out sugary drinks and all kinds of fizzy drinks, a lot of people cut out gluten. That’s putting the cart before the horse,” says Romeralo.


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