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Posted on 02/23/2017 in Category 1

The History of Gluten

The History of Gluten

The History of Gluten

Gluten isn’t a recent addition to the foods we eat; it’s an ingredient we’ve been consuming for years. Perhaps one of the most common misconceptions about gluten is that it’s a synthetic ingredient like some sort of man-made chemicals. However gluten is far different than nasty ingredients like GMO’s and E numbers -it’s actually a protein complex, a natural component of most wholegrain foods.

How long have we been eating gluten?

We’ll put it this way - for as long as people have been cultivating grains, the world has been consuming gluten. It’s believed that wheat grains were first cultivated by Ancient Egyptians in 8800 BCE. However it wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century that wheat grains became widely available in Ireland the rest of the Western world.

Where did the word “gluten” come from?

“Gluten” derives from the Latin language and translates as “glue”. Given that its core purpose is to ensure to hold grains together, maintaining that chewy texture and increasing elasticity of the bread, “glue” is certainly an apt description. Gluten is essential for making the dough rise when baking bread. In fact, a key identifier of gluten-free breads is that they are typically flat. Leavened breads on the other hand typically contain gluten.

Why wasn’t gluten intolerance or Celiac disease prevalent in earlier eras?

It’s a very realistic prospect that gluten intolerance and Celiac disease was a serious issue for many people for centuries upon centuries but the diagnostic tools required to identify such an issue just were not available. After all, the link between the symptoms of Coeliac disease and wheat was only truly established in the 1940’s by Dr. Willem Karle Dicke, a paediatrician from The Netherlands.

However many people believe that the rising number of sufferers of gluten intolerance and Coeliac in recent decades can also be contributed to the continuous cross-breeding of grains.It’s fair to say that the composition of wheat grain today certainly differs from that of the 17th or 18th century. Wheat  tends to grow to a much smaller height now, contains a higher level of starch and a different composition of gluten.

It is these key changes, which are attributed to cross-breeding of grains, are what people believe to be the key contributing factors to the significant increase in diagnosed sufferers of gluten intolerance and Coeliac disease. Although there is also cause to believe that the growing feature of wheat-based foods in the modern daily diet is a likely contributor too!

In many countries across the globe it is now a legal requirement for food manufacturers to declare the presence or absence of gluten in their products, such is the scale of people suffering from gluten sensitivity. Gluten has been a key ingredient in wheat based foods for centuries and will continue to do so for many years to come. However unlike the 17th or 18th centuries, gluten-free alternatives can be easily purchased in your local store or market!


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