Wheat- and gluten-containing products are often blamed for triggering a wide range of gastrointestinal symptoms, and this has fueled demand for gluten-free products worldwide. The best studied 'gluten intolerance' is coeliac disease, an auto-immune disease that affects the small intestine. Coeliac disease occurs in 1% of the population and requires strict, life-long avoidance of gluten-containing foods as the only medical treatment. There is a larger group of individuals (around 10-15% of the population) who report a wide-range of gastrointestinal symptoms that respond well to a 'gluten-free diet', but who do not have coeliac disease - so called 'non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS)'. The team at Monash University has identified other factors in gluten-containing foods that may be responsible for symptoms in this group of individuals with so-called, NCGS. We have evidence that certain poorly absorbed short chain carbohydrates (called FODMAPs) present in many gluten-containing food products, induce symptoms of abdominal pain, bloating, wind and altered bowel habit (associated with irritable bowel syndrome, IBS). Our research has shown that FODMAPs, and not gluten, triggered symptoms in NCGS. Going forward, there are great opportunities for the food industry to develop low FODMAP products for this group, as choice of grain variety and type of food processing technique can greatly reduce the FODMAP levels in foods. The use of sourdough cultures in bread making has been shown to reduce the quantities of FODMAPs (mostly fructan), resulting in bread products that are well tolerated by patients with IBS. Greater interaction between biomedical- and food-scientists will improve understanding about the clinical problems many consumers face, and lead to the development of food products that are better tolerated by this group.
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