Research Roundup: Essential Nutrients in Gluten-Free Products

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Essential nutrients in gluten-free products

Labeling requirements from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration improve buyers’ confidence about which foods do not contain gluten. But what do they contain? A Polish study of 50 gluten-free products found low essential minerals in those based on rice, corn, potato and gluten-free wheat starch.

Non-traditional ingredients and a few traditional ones scored better. Good mineral profiles were found in foods based on oats, amaranth, teff, quinoa, chestnut, acorn, brown rice, buckwheat and millet.

Several studies have highlighted vitamin and mineral deficiencies in people following a gluten-free diet. While poor absorption by the damaged gut may be partly to blame, evidence suggests that a badly managed gluten-free diet misses essential nutrients.

This study evaluated copper, calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc. The authors urge food companies to develop more products using the ingredients that scored well. Meanwhile, consumers can enhance their mineral intake by checking ingredient lists. Less-traditional grain alternatives should appear first in the list to contribute sufficient minerals.

Gliszczyn´ska-S´wigło A, Klimczak I, Rybicka I. Chemometric analysis of minerals in gluten-free products. J Sci Food Agric, 16 Jan 2018, doi:10.1002/jsfa.8803.

Small gender divide in celiac

A Mayo Clinic study comparing characteristics of men and women with celiac found they are “more alike than unalike.” While women were diagnosed younger and more frequently than men, most differences in their symptoms and health were small.

The study used medical records to document patients living with celiac in Olmstead County, Minnesota, diagnosed between 1990 and 2015. The total 282 patients were nearly two-thirds female. The majority were non-Hispanic whites, so the findings may not apply well to diverse populations.

Women averaged four years younger than men at diagnosis. This could result from differences in the disease or because women seek diagnosis sooner.

On first diagnosis, men and women reported most symptoms with similar frequency except that women were more likely to have constipation. Women had a higher rate of low ferritin, a possible sign of iron-deficiency anemia. However, this result may not relate directly to celiac because menstruating women are prone to iron deficiency.

Mortality was no higher than in the overall Minnesota population. During follow-up, 12 men and 11 women died, cancer being the most common cause.

Other autoimmune diseases were equally common in men and women, affecting 31 percent, much higher than an estimated 3.2 percent of the general population. Men and women had a significantly increased risk for osteoporosis.

In this group, 24 percent of women and 16 percent of men were diagnosed with depression, nearly three times the national average. This finding was consistent with previous findings on depression and celiac. The authors recommend doctors assess the mood of all newly diagnosed patients.

Jansson-Knodell CL, King KS, Larson JJ, Van Dyke CT, Murray JA, Rubio-Tapia A. Gender-based differences in a population-based cohort with celiac disease: more alike than unalike. Dig Dis Sci, Jan 2018;63(1):184-92, doi:10.1007/s10620-017-4835-0.

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