Category Archives: Gluten-Free (NOT)

Food Allergies Can Lead To Asthma: Study (And Again on the Anti-Gluten-Free Movement!)

 

This item is a bit outside the course of what this blog normally covers, but it is food-related, and it does provide information about a subject people in the food trade and/or with an interest in children’s health should pay attention to.

A recent study, reported on last month in BMC Pediatrics, noted that, “Childhood food allergy is associated with impaired quality of life, limited social interactions, comorbid allergic conditions, and significant economic cost; Importantly, a severe allergic reaction resulting in anaphylaxis can be life threatening, and food allergens are the most common cause of anaphylaxis and anaphylaxis-related mortality in children and adolescents; Recent estimates have reported food allergy prevalence figures between 4 and 8 %, however, these studies are limited in size and scope or rely on participant reporting rather than healthcare provider-based diagnosis.”

Put another, simpler way, the researchers found evidence that food allergies can contribute significantly to the development of asthma. (Yeah, I know, why didn’t they just say that??)

This may be putting the solution in front of the cure, but it would seem to me – no expert in such things! – that studies such as this one, which represent significant advances in medical science and knowledge, point to a need for [1] greater testing tools to ascertain what, if any, foods very young kids may be allergic to, and [2] approaches to dealing with, and curing, childhood allergies to prevent both life quality and budget busting costs down the road.

And, at the risk of sounding like I’m on an anti-gluten-free bandwagon (which I sort of am!), the food industry needs to stop fostering trends that, truth be told, truly are against the interests of a majority of the audience(s) they serve.

The cut-out-gluten case is a, um, case in point: As we reported recently, only a fairly miniscule portion of the U.S. population (with similar percentages likely elsewhere) has celiac disease – “About 1 in 100 people — about 1 percent — have celiac disease, an inherited autoimmune disease that causes damage to the small intestine when gluten is ingested,” according to The Celiac Disease Foundation; and, from the same source, “About .4 percent of people have a doctor-diagnosed wheat allergy, according to a 2006 study; In those people, a true allergic response to wheat (which contains gluten) can include skin, respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms.”

But as this blog pointed out recently, people without or with little risk of celiac disease could be doing themselves a disservice by going ‘gluten-free’. And, by implication, the ever-increasing number of companies declaring their processed food products to be ‘gluten-free’ are both deceiving and even putting at risk some of their consumer clients.

I find it both disturbing and disheartening that companies either fail to explore or disregard scientific

studies that strongly suggest they should stop wasting money on removing gluten from products and focus, instead, on making their products truly healthier for those who’ll consume them.

They should ignore what the latest ‘pair of dimes’ says, and go with the truth: Gluten-free is not, for most consumers, a solution to anything. And it’s truly detrimental for many of them!

Pizza ATM Debuts At Xavier U in Ohio

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Universities in Ohio seem to be bending over backward to satisfy supposed ‘needs’ of students: First we reported on a gluten-free dining hall (at Kent State University); Now there’s news of a pizza vending machine at Xavier University in Cincinnati.

Like the earlier story, this one was first noted by no-excuse-to-be-hungry reporters at NBC News. In this instance, they declared that “late-night pizza is as much a staple of college life as classes, dorms and exams, but fresh pizza in the middle of the night isn’t always easy to find.” Nor are middle-of-the-night beer-dispensing premises, but no one seems to be working on a work-around for students in that area!

Clearly, there’s a profit-motive for the pizza ATM. But its existence also represents a clear disconnect from the dream of most parents that colleges and universities would make some attempt to encourage their charges to learn and practice some self-control, to get over thinking that their every whim must be satisfied, and to pizza  and beer are not basic food groups.

Sadly, many colleges and universities make it abundantly clear that they have no interest in the better-interests of their students as they both allow and seemingly encourage the existence of beer-fueled fraternities.

That said, the pizza ATM was inevitable: It’s merely a marriage of microwave and money-for-merchandise machines that have been around for decades. (I’m reminded of being able, as long ago as the early 1970’s, to purchase bottles of chilled wine from vending machines in Switzerland and France.)

It’s no wonder that, as Xavier Assistant Vice President Jude Kiah told NBC News, the school has had “almost 700 inquiries about the machine; Many, many other schools are interested in bringing it to their campuses.”

Pizza ATM is made by Paline, a French company. The dispensers have a long history of popularity in Europe, NBC declared.

University officials say the quality of the machine-made pizzas will not differ from dining hall pizzas — they are still hand-prepped by staff in the Xavier dining hall, which has won two national awards for its food in the past three years. But instead of the pizza being cooked by staff, it’s heated up in the machine at 475 degrees.

Pizza ATM delivered its first pizza to the Xavier women’s soccer team, and is still in the testing phase. Kiah said the vending machine will be available for students when they arrive on campus later this month.

 

 

Kent State U. in Ohio Has First-In-U.S. Gluten-Free Dining Hall

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Chefs cook up omelets with bacon and other sides at Kent State University’s Prentice Cafe, the only entirely gluten-free campus dining hall in America, according to the school. Courtesy of Kent State University.

As you’d expect, Kent State University in Ohio is hailing the country’s gluten-free dining hall as “a benefit” – even though as this blog pointed out a couple of days, that, for people who don’t have and are at little risk of celiac disease, is far from true: Gluten-free diets, we noted, quoting experts, can short-change followers of vital vitamins and minerals, thus making such diets more a risk than a benefit.

Kent State says that while many colleges offer gluten-free stations within dining halls, its Prentice Cafe is the first certified all-gluten-free campus dining facility in America. That means, the school says, that there is no risk during food preparation of cross-contamination that could allow traces of gluten into a meal. Even traces of gluten, they say, “can severely impact sufferers of celiac disease” — an autoimmune disorder where the body cannot process the wheat protein.

School officials say a rise in students who can’t — or choose not to — eat gluten prompted them to designate a dining hall specifically for them.

“For the last several years, the increase in food intolerances and celiac disease and those who have even minor gluten intolerances kept increasing,” Kent State Director of Dining Services Richard Roldan told NBC News. “A lot of parents kept coming in and stressing about the well-being of their students and having options that wouldn’t make them sick.”

Gluten, a protein, is found in wheat, rye and barley. About 3 million Americans suffer celiac, a genetic autoimmune disease which leads to damage to the lining of the small intestine, Symptoms include pain, fatigue and diarrhea when foods with gluten, such as bread or pasta, are consumed. A small number of people have an allergy to wheat, which has similar symptoms.

Millions of others avoid gluten for perceived health reasons, although nutritionists question whether going gluten-free actually has benefits. Many gluten-free foods use rice as a substitute and may lack key nutrients found in whole grains. Also, gluten-free products tend to have more fat and sugar than foods with gluten, which can lead to weight gain.

Either way, sales of gluten-free products have surged in recent years as the number of people foregoing it in the U.S. tripled between 2009 and 2014, according to a new study out this week.

But despite the spike in popularity, there’s been no effect on the prevalence of celiac disease. Diagnoses appear to have remained stable in recent years, according to the article published by JAMA Internal Medicine last Tuesday.

One clear benefit in recent years of the gluten-free movement, according to the Kent State dining officials: gluten-free products taste a lot better — and a lot closer to their gluten counterparts than they used to.

“The manager and chef at [Prentice Cafe] have done a lot of sampling of different products out there to find the ones that really taste the best, so students who don’t need to eat gluten-free come in and are enjoying it too,” dining services dietitian Megan Brzuski told NBC News.

Erin Mazzotta, 19, just started her freshman year at Kent State. She was diagnosed with celiac in third grade and knew Prentice had food options for her when she was applying, but didn’t know it was going to be entirely gluten-free as of this year.

The Pittsburgh native was thrilled when she found out, especially after her experiences going out to eat growing up.

“A lot of restaurants do offer gluten-free menus, but it’s a little bit of a risk. You have to trust them when they’re cooking your food and handling it,” she said.

Kent State earned certification from the Gluten-Free Food Services Certification Program, a food safety program offered through the Gluten Intolerance Group, for Prentice Cafe. Traditional gluten products are easily subbed out for things like tortillas made from corn for burritos, and gluten-free hamburger buns that have good taste and texture, Roldan said.

The food at Prentice Café is “really good,” Mazzotta said.

“With gluten-free foods, sometimes you can tell it’s a little bit off, but all the different meals there have been spot-on,” she said, adding that her friends who aren’t gluten-free join her for meals there.

For students who don’t require a gluten-free diet, Prentice Cafe can still meet all their nutritional needs, Brzuski said.

“The cafe still has a wide variety of options,” she said. “There’s still a salad bar with plenty of lean protein, plenty of other options. Eating gluten-free is just a benefit.”

Or not!

 

Not a Celiac Sufferer? Forget ‘Gluten-Free’

 

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Eliminate the gluten, eliminate the value of foods, too!

Gluten-free diets have become a fad – for no practical reason, and often impractically, experts say.

People with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder in which foods containing gluten trigger the immune system to attack and damage the small  intestine, are for all intents and purposes the only people who really need to eliminate gluten from their diets.

But while significantly larger numbers of people have – with the help of food-processors offering gluten-free products – dramatically reduced their gluten intake, the number of celiac cases has remained pretty steady, according to The Celiac Disease Foundation.

Gluten, a protein found naturally in grains such as wheat, barley and rye, really should be avoided by people with celiac disease or risk damage to their

While gluten-free diets seem to be the latest fad, the number of people being diagnosed with celiac disease hasn’t budged, new research shows.

And while the latter is a good thing, the former certainly isn’t: Limiting or eliminating gluten from your diet if you don’t have – or aren’t at serious risk of contracting celiac disease – could do you more harm than good. Unless you suffer from what’s called non-celiac gluten sensitivity, there may be only marginal benefits in that, as Dr. Daphne Miller of the University of California, San Francisco wrote recently, people without celiac disease may think a gluten-free diet is beneficial is because it reduces the amount of processed foods in their diet.

But such a diet could also put you at risk of certain nutritional deficiencies (see the fifth paragraph of this link).