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    Is Beer Gluten-Free and Safe for People with Celiac Disease?

    Scott Adams

    This statement is being distributed by Sapporo Breweries:
    "A representative from Sapporo Breweries, Ltd./Tokyo has advised that Sapporo beer does contain barley. However, after the barley is boiled, the gluten is filtered out along with the barley skins. The representative assured me that although the barley itself does contain gluten, their brewing process effectively removes all the gluten from their beer."

    The following comments were written by Donald D. Kasarda who is a research chemist in the Crop Improvement and Utilization Research Unit of the United States Department of Agriculture. If you have any questions or comments regarding the piece, you can address them to Don at: kasarda@pw.usda.gov.

    The reason that this doesnt make sense for celiac patients has to do with the digestion of the barley hordeins, the proteins that are similar to wheat gliadins in barley. During the malting and fermentation processes, the barley hordeins are broken down into smaller pieces called peptides. It is true that no intact hordein proteins can generally be found in beer. However, the smaller pieces of these proteins resulting from enzymatic digestion are often quite water soluble so that they remain in the beer throughout the complete processing to the final product. (Remember that beer is not a distilled product as are whiskey or vodka. Filtration of the beer will not remove these small water-soluble hordein polypeptides.) A barley hordein might have a polypeptide chain including 300 amino acids in its sequence, yet it is reasonably well established by experiments that polypeptides with as few as 13 amino acid residues in the chain can still retain toxicity for celiac patients. These small pieces of the original proteins can (and do) have very different properties from the original larger proteins. In the strict sense, Sapporo is correct that there are no more intact hordeins in their beer. What they cannot claim is that there are no hordein peptides in the beer that might harm celiac patients.

    There is some evidence from analytical methods involving antibodies prepared to gliadins that there are peptides in beer that react with these antibodies. It is not proved beyond any doubt that the peptides in beer are actually toxic to celiac patients, but it is quite possible that the peptides remaining in any barley-based or wheat-based beer, Sapporo included, are harmful to celiac patients. The amount of harmful peptides, if they are present, is likely to be small, but there is no satisfactory analytical data, in my opinion, that defines the amount exactly. So it could be in a range that would be harmful to a celiac patient drinking beer on a regular basis. My guess is, and I emphasize that I cant back this up with scientific results, that a glass of beer once every few months would not do lasting harm to the average celiac patient. By average celiac patient, I mean those who have no obvious allergic character to their disease and do not notice any immediate reaction when they ingest gluten. 

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    Guest louise

    Posted

    It seems to me that there is some very jumbled thinking when it comes to whether or not celiacs 'react' to substances. One of the first things doctors in the UK tell you is that a lack of obvious reaction does not equate necessarily with a lack of internal damage. Indeed many celiacs are diagnosed from biopsy with ruined guts who have never had any obvious symptoms of intestinal irritation. Yet despite knowing that external symptoms are not a good indicator of the damage which can be done by this 'silent disease' we are continually told in the UK and in the States it would appear that if such things as oats and beer don't appear to make you sick then small amounts probably won't hurt you. It's not just unscientific - it's dangerous.

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    An excellent discussion except in the conclusion- because celiac disease dramatically increases the risk of developing lymphoma, and that risk is dose-related, any chance of exposure to gluten/gliadins increases the risk of lymphoma. Not worth a beer a month...

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    Guest jeannie

    Posted

    I'm a fan of beer especially with sushi or Mexican food and have been round and round with information regarding whether it is effectively gluten free. What I have personally observed is that pale, light beers do not cause any obvious physical reaction for me, but even an amber kind of lager will, for me, cause a problem. I know this does not speak to the problems that are below that obvious threshold. I wish there was better info on this.

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    Guest Dheak

    Posted

    I am a beer lover and could not imagine life without it. Beer is literally my greatest pleasure. As such, if I were to be diagnosed with celiac disease, my life would then become automatically less complete. While I understand that it is possible for celiac patients to consume alcohol by way of distilled spirits, I would have a hard time accepting that. I love a good glass of beer like a regular person likes a piece of chocolate. The consumption and recently the creation of (I started home-brewing recently, can't wait to taste the results) of delicious beer is pretty much my life. Much respect to those who have similar tastes to me but can't fulfill said pleasures.

     

    I drank a beer once called Redbridge, brewed by Anheiser Busch, that advertised itself as being celiac safe. It is brewed with sorghum rather than barley. It wasn't bad but it wasn't Guinness by a long shot.

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    Guest Shadowboricua

    Posted

    Yeah, beer is your greatest pleasure and lymphoma can be your biggest nightmare. Just cause there is no reaction when you drink beer, it does not mean that you are damaging your bowel. Most celiacs are asymptomatic but it still can result in lymphoma.

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    Guest ciarraighli

    Posted

    So sad. I love me a good beer too, especially the dark kind you can chew. However, though I have not been diagnosed with celiac, I have discovered that I seriously have a problem with grains, especially wheat. (& so does everyone I know who has gone on a Paleo diet like I have--we really should stick to meat, fruit, & veggies as a species). I do notice a problem, albeit not severe, when I have a beer. So if you are severe enough to have sought medical help, I strongly advise against having beer at all. Really.

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    Guest Michael

    Posted

    It's pretty misleading for people without celiac disease to comment on this, we all love a great beer, and as a poor college student I'm always looking for more gluten free beers. I'd love to hear that Sapporo is gluten free but the results seam inconclusive. Redbridge, Bards and New grist are the only ones out there right now.

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    Guest Laura

    Posted

    As a celiac who has been eliminating things from my diet for going on 10 years, I don't hold any hope that there is anything out there that is totally gluten-free. My system is so sensitive to any lectin that looks like gluten, I have problems: candy. Manufacturers use wheat flour to keep the candy from sticking to the conveyor belt. Not only do wheat, rye, barley and spelt bother me, but due to something I can't understand, I also have to avoid dried beans, chocolate and chilis. Now, the gluten in corn bothers me. People tell me that a deep fat fryer gets up to 335 degrees, so no gluten would survive. If the oil is fresh, I have no problems. If it is used, I can tell. I can't eat food with Distilled White Vinegar because my body can find the gluten in it.

     

    With the two most common food allergies being wheat and cow's milk and type O blood having to avoid wheat, potatoes and corn because of metabolic inhibitors.

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    I am a beer lover with celiac disease. Redbridge made by Amheiser Busch is the choice for me. The only problem is when you are out and about very few bars or stores carry it. Was on vacation last week and did try the Sapporo beer. Felt fine but who knows what it did to my gut.

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    Guest Kestrel

    Posted

    Estrelle Damm has the best gluten free beer hands down.. a little expensive unfortunately. It's called Daura I believe. It's actually made from barley but filtered to 6ppm if i remember.

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