The three million people in the United States who have celiac disease can now rest easy when deciding what food products to buy. The FDA has just issued a rule defining the characteristics necessary to classify a food as gluten-free, without gluten, free of gluten, and no gluten. Foods with these labels can contain gluten at levels less than 20 parts per million, which is the lowest level detectable by scientific analytical tools.
Gluten refers to some proteins found in wheat, rye and barley. When people with celiac disease ingest gluten, their bodies produce antibodies which attack the lining of the small intestine, impairing nutrient absorption. This can lead to anemia and osteoporosis as well as diabetes, autoimmune thyroid disease and intestinal cancers. It makes sense then, that these new regulations are a huge victory for people with celiac disease, according to Andrew Levario, executive director of the American Celiac Disease Alliance.
ACSH s Ariel Savransky agrees that this is great news for those people with celiac disease, and even for those who may be sensitive to gluten. However, she adds, many people have developed the idea that gluten-free equals healthier, and that is not necessarily the case. This way of thinking is equivalent to many people s understanding of organic foods. It s a health halo effect, where people just assume that because it says organic, it must be healthier. With gluten free though, people who do not need to be on this kind of diet may actually end up causing harm to themselves and choosing to go on a gluten free diet may result in vitamin deficiencies and malnutrition. I would recommend talking to your doctor before deciding to eliminate gluten completely from your diet.