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  • Scott Adams
    Scott Adams

    What is gluten? What is gliadin?

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Traditionally, gluten is defined as a cohesive, elastic protein that is left behind after starch is washed away from a wheat flour dough. Only wheat is considered to have true gluten. Gluten is actually made up of many different proteins.

    There are two main groups of proteins in gluten, called the gliadins and the glutenins. Upon digestion, the gluten proteins break down into smaller units, called peptides (also, polypeptides or peptide chains) that are made up of strings of amino acids--almost like beads on a string. The parent proteins have polypeptide chains that include hundreds of amino acids. One particular peptide has been shown to be harmful to celiac patients when instilled directly into the small intestine of several patients. This peptide includes 19 amino acids strung together in a specific sequence. Although the likelihood that this particular peptide is harmful is strong, other peptides may be harmful, as well, including some derived from the glutenin fraction.

    It is certain that there are polypeptide chains in rye and barley proteins that are similar to the ones found in wheat. Oat proteins have similar, but slightly different polypeptide chains and may or may not be harmful to celiac patients. There is scientific evidence supporting both possibilities.

    When celiac patients talk about "gluten-free" or a "gluten-free diet," they are actually talking about food or a diet free of the harmful peptides from wheat, rye, barley, and (possibly) oats. This means eliminating virtually all foods made from these grains (e. g., food starch when it is prepared from wheat, and malt when it comes from barley) regardless of whether these foods contain gluten in the very strict sense. Thus, "gluten-free" has become shorthand for "foods that dont harm celiacs."

    In recent years, especially among non-celiacs, the term gluten has been stretched to include corn proteins (corn gluten) and there is a glutinous rice, although in the latter case, glutinous refers to the stickiness of the rice rather than to its containing gluten. As far as we know, neither corn nor glutinous rice cause any harm to celiacs.


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    Very informative. I'm looking for ways to increase my knowledge base while decreasing my waistline. This has been a helpful starting point. Plus I'll pass it on to a friend! :)

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    Ok - I've read that fermenting flour into sourdough bread pre-digests the gluten in the flour and also breaks down toxins that are anti-nutrients. Not sure if this makes it any better for celiac/gluten sensitive people. I haven't read anything on it anywhere in relation to celiac/gluten sensitivity - whether fermenting makes it okay to eat or not.

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    Just happened on an article and video posted on one of the local news stations relating to the "Modern Wheat" featuring Dr. William Davis, a cardiologist who published a book about the world's most popular grain. He had mentioned gliadin that is found in today's version of wheat and how harmful it can be. Not to mention, the wheat of today is produced from a genetic 13" plant. I am a big health nut and big fan of wheat products. Just learned that because it says wheat, doesn't make it any better for me than products made with white flour. I am truly amazed and disappointed that we as consumers are being so deceived and health put at risk for the almighty dollar. Looks like I will be cleaning out my cabinets and pantry and throwing a lot of things out. Have a wonderful and healthy life everyone!

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  • About Me

    Celiac.com's Founder and CEO, Scott was diagnosed with celiac disease  in 1994, and, due to the nearly total lack of information available at that time, was forced to become an expert on the disease in order to recover. Scott launched the site that later became Celiac.com in 1995 "To help as many people as possible with celiac disease get diagnosed so they can begin to live happy, healthy gluten-free lives."  In 1998 he founded The Gluten-Free Mall which he sold in 2014. He is co-author of the book Cereal Killers, and founder and publisher of Journal of Gluten Sensitivity.

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