Improved gluten-free breads (photo courtesy of Jimee, Jackie, Tom & Asha)
Celiac.com 05/10/2010 - Celiac is a genetic autoimmune disease which affects 1 in 100 people worldwide, making it one of the most common food intolerance's in the world. Celiac disease is triggered by the ingestion of gluten proteins, and for those sensitive to gluten, digestion of gluten grains results in an immunological response in the small intestine, destroying mature absorptive epithelial cells on the surface of the small intestine, and creating side effects ranging from severe illnesses, to no obvious symptoms what-so-ever. Regardless of your symptoms, if left untreated, celiac disease can be life-threatening.

There is no medication to cure or alleviate celiac disease, and the only cure is complete gluten abstinence for life. Avoiding gluten, means avoiding wheat, rye and barley; which when entirely avoided can lead to recovery from celiac disease symptoms, and result in significant improvement of the intestinal mucosa and its absorptive functions.

There is great controversy among most people who are gluten sensitive over the current market  for gluten-free products, especially breads and cereals. Most people who avoid gluten agree that gluten-free bread leaves much to be desired. Most gluten-free breads are dry, bland, and can only be tolerated when toasted and covered with lots of jam. However, Healthgrain, a European Union project  is working hard to strengthen the scientific formulas for a new generation of cereals and breads for those looking for healthy, tasty gluten-free options.

New methods are being created  by Healthgrain, and conducted by the research team of Professor Elke Arendt, University College Cork, Ireland and the team of Professor Jan Delcour, KU Leuven, Belgium, to improve the overall quality of gluten-free products. One new method Healthgrain is exploring is the use of special Lactic acid bacteria. Lactic acid bacteria has innate properties such as anti fungal activity, which  has been shown to improve the quality and shelf-life of gluten-free breads.

Texture is another big complaint most gluten-free people have when it comes to gluten-free products. Healthgrain has been experimenting with the effect different enzymes such as transglutaminase, glucose oxidase and protease play on the texture of gluten-free cereals. The enzymes showed that they in fact have an essential role in improving the construction of gluten-free bread, although the enzymes also showed varying reactions to the array of different gluten-free breads.

Another technique introduced to improve  gluten-free products is something called, 'high pressure processing' (HP).  The impact of HP on the major polymers found in gluten-free flours, were also investigated by Healthgrain. The results of the impact of HP on gluten-free grains reveled that starch gelatinisation and protein network formation occurred at pressures greater than 350 MPa. However a weakening of protein structures  was discovered at lower pressures. Adding HP treated gluten-free batters to bread showed an improvement in volume and decreased staling with pressure less than 200 MPa.

We live in a great time to be gluten-free and the scientific studies of the Healthgrain project offers more hope to gluten-free folks looking for more gluten-free products that don't taste gluten-free.

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