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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    Celiac Disease? Gluten-free Beer Okay, but Beware of "Low-Gluten" Beers

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Celiac.com 01/31/2012 - Barley is used to make most traditionally brewed commercial beer, but whether the finished product contains significant amounts of gluten has remained unresolved.

    A number of breweries have been labeling certain of their barley-brewed beers as 'low gluten." The breweries have contended that the brewing process eliminates or reduces the gluten content in beer to levels that make it acceptable for people with sensitivity to gluten.

    Photo: CC - greencolanderPerhaps unsurprisingly, a recent study of sixty commercial beers has debunked the idea that the beer brewing process eliminates gluten or reduces it to levels insignificant for people with celiac disease or gluten-intolerance.

    Beers tested in a new study, including some brands labeled "low-gluten," contain hordein, the form of gluten found in barley, at levels that could trigger symptoms in patients with celiac disease, according to researchers.

    You can find the full study to address this controversy over the gluten content of beer in ACS' Journal of Proteome Research.

    In their article, Michelle Colgrave and colleagues explain that celiac disease affects over than 2 million people worldwide.

    They explain that their study faced an initial challenge because  detecting gluten in malted products using existing tests was difficult, as the tests were largely inaccurate. So the scientists developed a highly accurate new test for hordein, the gluten component in barley-based beers.

    As many expected, their analysis of 60 commercial beers found that eight labeled "gluten-free" did not contain gluten. All eight of the commercial beers labeled 'gluten-free' were, in fact, gluten-free.

    But most regular, commercial beers had significant levels of gluten. Most alarming was that discovery that the two beers labeled as "low-gluten" each contained about as much gluten as a regular beer.

    With the market for gluten-free products continuing to expand rapidly, it is no surprise that products may slip onto the market which are targeted at people with celiac disease or gluten-intolerance, but which actually contain levels of gluten that are unacceptable and potentially harmful to people who are sensitive to the proteins.

    The problem is partly compounded by a lack of consistent standards for what constitutes "gluten-free," or what levels best address the needs of people with celiac disease and gluten-intolerance.

    That leaves the burden for making decisions about what products are safe or not safe largely up to consumers, who must rely on a loose patchwork of manufacturers and product certification organizations that are, hopefully, knowledgeable, scientific and reliable. When science is hazy, room exists for spurious.

    The lesson here is that commercial gluten-free beers seem to be genuinely gluten-free, and safe for people with celiac disease and gluten-intolerance, while anything labeled 'low gluten' is potentially bad news.

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    No brands?!!!! Are you SERIOUS?!!!!! How can you withhold information from people who might be "unknowingly" harming themselves by consuming these products? The usefulness of this article is difficult to pinpoint as it "stills leaves the burden of making decisions about what products are safe and not" still largely up to the consumer. Help us out here and list the brands. This article is like holding a hot dog on a string in front of our starving faces.

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    No brands?!!!! Are you SERIOUS?!!!!! How can you withhold information from people who might be "unknowingly" harming themselves by consuming these products? The usefulness of this article is difficult to pinpoint as it "stills leaves the burden of making decisions about what products are safe and not" still largely up to the consumer. Help us out here and list the brands. This article is like holding a hot dog on a string in front of our starving faces.

    Redbridge is gluten free and not bad

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    I just tasted Planet ale last week at a National Celiac Awareness Tour in Pittsburgh. It's far superior than Bard's or Redbridge gluten-free beers. There are 3 different types of Planet ale.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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