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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    Is Gluten-Free Bread Really Bread?

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Should gluten-free bread even be called bread? Some gluten-free breads are drawing scrutiny for some ingredients that don’t seem very food-like.

    Is Gluten-Free Bread Really Bread? - Image: CC--Alan Levine
    Caption: Image: CC--Alan Levine

    Celiac.com 04/04/2019 - More people than ever are avoiding gluten and buying gluten-free foods. Conventional stores are the major distribution channel for gluten-free products, with 2015 sales amounting to about 2.79 billion U.S. dollars. By 2020, the market is projected to be valued at 7.59 billion U.S. dollars. 

    Gluten-free breads are one of the staples for many gluten-free diets. They make up a significant portion of gluten-free products sold in stores. However, gluten-free breads are drawing scrutiny for some ingredients that don’t seem very food-like.

    Gluten-Free Foods High in Salt, Fat and Sugar

    We know that gluten-free foods tend to have have lots of salt. We also know that they tend to contain high amounts of fat and sugar, as well. Consumers can be easily mislead by gluten-free labels and marketing claims. Dietician Aisling Pigott says that people have "this perception that choosing the gluten-free bread or cake is healthier for us but actually, it's generally the same product with the gluten removed and other additives added in to make that product taste right."

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    The latest scrutiny comes in the form of an investigative report from a television station in the UK that is highlighting some startling truths about gluten-free breads. Among them, the report features Chris Young, a spokesman for the Real Bread Campaign, who warns consumers that some brands contain up to 27 different ingredients, some of which are "not, strictly speaking, food substances...You start off with water, rice flour, tapioca starch and maize starch," he said. "Then you start getting to things like humectant and glycerine, which you find in make-up. That's to keep it moist."

    Mr Young adds that many gluten-free beads contain xanthan gum as a thickener. Xanthan gum is also used in the oil drilling industry as a lubricant. Young goes on to suggest that gluten-free loaves should not be branded as bread.

    In response to the claims, the Gluten Free Industry Association said: "All food additives are assessed for safety and approved by the European Food Safety Authority.”

    To that, Mr Young says that “History is littered with artificial additives that one day are safe, then people start questioning them and they are either withdrawn or banned."

    Look, even if these additives are somehow digestible and safe, they are far from ideal dietary material. For people who do not have celiac disease or other medical intolerances to gluten, breads made of these ingredients is far less nutritious than actual bread made with wheat flour.

    People with celiac disease, and consumers looking for healthy alternatives, might consider long-fermented sourdough breads from small companies like San Francisco’s BreadSrsly, which are made by long-fermenting just a few gluten-free grains, like organic white rice, organic millet, and organic sorghum, and which contain no peanuts, tree nuts, potatoes tapioca or chickpeas. Long-fermented sourdough breads have been shown to reduce gluten-content in wheat bread. They also contain lactobacilli bacteria, which has been shown to aid digestion, and to reduce symptoms of IBS.

    Read more at Express.co.uk
    And at BreadSrsly.com

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    It is possible to make what we call Real Bread with naturally gluten free flour, it's just that most industrial loaf manufacturers (in the UK, at least) choose not to, using a range of gums and other additives as well. You can find recipes and more information on the Real Bread Campaign website.

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    Seriously?  Sour dough with “reduced gluten content” is NOT for Celiacs.

    and this nonsense that something is used for a non- food purpose is silly.  Water is used as a coolant in coal and nuclear power plants- I guess we shouldn’t use it?

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    On 4/5/2019 at 8:02 PM, Scott Adams said:

    That article does not say that it is for celiac disease. It is research into sourdough the proves it drastically reduces the gluten content in wheat-based breads. 

    There are gluten free sourdough breads on the market; even a gluten free sourdough pizza dough available from a bakery in Pittsfield MA, called Ugly pizza crust. Furthermore, Patrick Auger, a gluten-free baker (FB) working with founder of Better Batter flour, has developed a gum free flour mix that makes amazing bread.  And, "xanthan gum is a type of sugar derived from corn or soy, when fermented by a type of bacteria creates a glue-like substance which can  be made into a solid with the  addition of an alcohol. It is safe for humans  when less than 15 grams a day are consumed."  

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    ....I think that last part about the "Long-Fermented Sourdough" should be edited out of the article. This fuels the misconception that sourdough process makes it safe for celiacs. GFWD has been over this many times, there are a few companies that keep pushing this stuff as "Gluten-Free" when it keeps causing reports of celiacs still getting sick from it. 
    Some people that do not have obvious symptoms would not know they are slowly poisoning themselves. The lower gluten content will make some think it is safe at first but cause slow cascading damage over time. 
    Fact is many are in denial about their disease and will take a risk in the process to at any kind of hope. I know I did when I was first dia. I kept trying different enzymes, low gluten flours, ancient species of wheat said to be safe, random foods, etc. It drilled into me that this disease is here to stay, there are no short cuts, and the gluten-free diet is the only treatment. 

    Now back to the article at hand, I am curious if I could get one of these starters from BreadSrsly and see if I can use it with a nut based dough? The lack of starches to feed it has me thinking no, 
    BUT HERE is an alternative I have done, oooflavors makes Sourdough Flavor drops. Make your Gluten-Free bread at home, nut based, or whatever, and add 20-30drops to a 2lb loaf mixing with the liquids before adding. BOOM it taste like sourdough. They also make other bread flavors, so you can get your flavor fix without killing yourself.  Yes all of them are free of gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, peanuts,

    Oh you can also do the rye with added caraway seeds, or use the dessert bread flavors. With my corn allergy, I make cornbread with coconut flour and add in the drops...worked great for Thanksgiving dressing. 

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    I'm rather curious as to what constitutes 'real bread' and who made the decision as to what 'real bread' is.  There are a lot of different breads out there from a lot of different places with a lot of different purposes.  

    As someone mentioned, even water can be used as a lubricant and too much water can, indeed, kill you. I feel like there's a touch of inflammatory intent in the comment on xanthan gum - why mention that it's used in drilling if there's no correlation to be made with us?  It seems like a scare tactic. It looks like xanthan gum and some other additives to make many gluten-free breads are fine if used in moderation - like almost anything else we ingest.  Admittedly, I'd love to find a bread recipe closer to the wheat bread I used to enjoy and I'll look at the Real Bread site and see what is there to learn, but many people offering alternatives are not offering the types of breads that most of us would love to have again; the softer sandwich breads that are not so dense or crumbly.  

    It's hard to navigate all there is to learn.  Honestly, I need facts and not supposition and suspicion.   

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    2 hours ago, Guest Richard NDL said:

    This conversation reminds me of Barilla pasta.   Pre-Celiac this was my go-to pasta.  Their gluten free pasta says "At last, a gluten free pasta that tastes like real pasta!"   So the gluten free product isn't "real" pasta.


    2 hours ago, Guest One Correction said:

    The article mistakenly makes it sound like Xanthan gum is some new fangled additive invented for gluten-free baking, when in fact it's been around for a long time as a thickener in many non-gluten-free items.

    What is Xantham Gum Exactly

    "The most likely ingredient to gloss over on the list from the back of your gluten-free product is Xanthan Gum. Label readers are often looking for those other little nasty additives lurking under the guise of “Natural Flavors” or other convoluted names but take Xanthan Gum at face value without questioning what it really might be.

    The FDA has deemed this ingredient as safe for use at under 20ppm a day, but then again, this is the same regulating administration that thinks it’s okay to eat food dye, sulfites, trans fat… you name it. So should we be consuming this binding agent at any dose? The most helpful way to come to any sort of conclusion is to look at the roots.

    Xanthan Gum is a fermentation from the bacteria Xanthomonas Campestris. Before the 1950’s, this bacteria was best known for its ability to destroy crops of vegetables, namely broccoli and cauliflower. They called it “Black Rot” and for good reason. The slimy substance infected crops and had a thing for the cruciferous family. 

    At one point, the Department of Agriculture had the idea to cultivate the substance in order to utilize it for something more practical. Now, the bacteria are grown in large vats using a variety of different foods to sustain that growth. The food chosen for the bacteria differs based on the manufacturer's needs or options. Xantham Gum requires sugar or starch to efficiently develop. This includes soy, corn, wheat, dairy, or sugar. Xanthan Gum can, therefore, be deemed gluten free because of the source, even including that which is grown on wheat because of one small technicality. Wheat starch.

    Wheat starch is the sugar of wheat, in a sense, and is technically gluten-free.

    After the bacteria is grown to maturity, it is heated up to kill the bacteria, dried and ground to become a powder, then added to your food and also your wallpaper glue, paint, and ink.

    It’s important to understand the history of foods before making a decision to indulge in them, especially for people with sensitivities to foods that might be connected in some way. For example, there are many consumers who are allergic to wheat and not necessarily just gluten, but due to the nature of the market, there are not many warnings about wheat, only gluten. Therefore, one who is sensitive to wheat may pick up a gluten-free product and merely hope there is no connection to foods such as wheat starch. The examples could go on. 

    Outside of allergic reactions, there are those who are attempting to sustain a particular diet based on a variety of reasons. For example, the Paleo diet is a pretty big deal these days. There are many different approaches to Paleo, but most can agree that over processed mold may not be the best option to include on a Paleo diet, especially when there are significantly better options on the market.

    History is important. It’s what makes us who we are, and it’s what makes our food whatever it is. Because we really are what we eat, it’s important to pay attention.

    Interestingly enough, there are actually a few potential health benefits to Xanthan Gum, such as lowering blood sugar or cholesterol. Unfortunately, there have not been enough studies done on human samples to verify these claims.

    At the end of the day, information is power. If Xanthan Gum doesn’t bother you, great! However, if there is something sneaky happening in your diet that’s causing a mysterious issue, it may be wise to check it out. Now you know!"







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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams

    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 2,500 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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