Blood & Laboratory Values

Gluten – Function & Diseases

Gluten

Gluten is a mixture of different proteins . As a gluten protein, it is mainly found in cereals. People who suffer from [gluten intolerance]] (celiac disease) experience, among other things, digestive problems of varying degrees of severity when eating the corresponding foods.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a mixture of different proteins. It is also known colloquially as gluten protein: gluten is responsible for the fact that flour mixed with liquid has a sticky consistency.

The dough of bread or other pastries has a cohesion due to the protein mixture and forms a homogeneous mass. The change in consistency comes about because the proteins in the dough take on a three-dimensional structure. This is not reversible (irreversible). Gluten is an adhesive protein, but not glue. In contrast to gluten, gluten consists not only of proteins, but of proteins, fats and carbohydrates .

Function, effect & tasks

Gluten in its entirety has no importance for health or the human body. The only exceptions are gluten intolerance or celiac disease. However, gluten is made up of different proteins. Proteins are made up of long chains of amino acids . The splitting of the proteins releases energy that the body can use for its metabolic processes. At the end of this processing, the amino acids are free or broken down into shorter chains. 

The body needs the amino acids as building blocks for other molecules that serve as the starting material for all cells , hormones , transmitters, tissue types, etc. There are a total of 23 known proteinogenic amino acids, from which an almost infinite number of proteins can be composed. Of these amino acids, eight are essential for humans, i.e. vital. They include isoleucine , leucine , lysine , methionine , phenylalanine , threonine , tryptophan , and valine. In addition, the organism needs semi-essential amino acids: for example, when there is an injury, certain amino acids must be present to help the body cope with the injury. If there is no injury, they are not so important for the functioning of the human body.

The number and order of the amino acids and the spatial structure of the folded chain determine the properties of the proteins – comparable to letters that are lined up to form words. In addition to the proteinogenic amino acids, there are numerous other amino acids that are not used as building blocks in proteins. Biology refers to them as non-proteinogenic amino acids. For example, they influence the enzymatic reaction. To date, researchers have been able to identify around 400 different non-proteinogenic amino acids.

Formation, Occurrence, Properties & Optimal Values

Gluten is found in several grains, but not all. With 10.3 g gluten per 100 g flour, spelled has one of the highest gluten contents. Oats, on the other hand, have about 5.6 g of gluten per 100 g of flour. The gluten in the wheat forms the basis for the so-called wheat meat, the seitan. It is an increasingly popular alternative to meat and, like meat, is very high in protein. Gluten-free grains include millet , corn , rice , and teff .

Teff or dwarf millet is a sweet grass that occurs mainly in Ethiopia and is very widespread there. In addition to these grains, buckwheat , amaranth and quinoa are also gluten-free. Biologically, however, they are not cereals; botany therefore also calls them pseudocereals.

The two components of gluten are prolamin and glutelins. Prolamines do not serve as building materials and are not enzymes either: They are storage proteins that the plant forms in the seeds. These proteins are available to the new plant during germination. That is why biology calls them reserve substances. Prolamins are not pure proteins, but are also made up of different proteins.

Diseases & Disorders

Gluten intolerance is a common gluten-related disorder. In medicine, it is also referred to as celiac disease or gluten-sensitive or gluten-induced enteropathy. This condition is a cross between an allergy and an autoimmune disease . It is therefore clearly different from wheat allergy, which can, however, show similar symptoms.

People who cannot tolerate gluten are hypersensitive to the building blocks of gluten. As a result, chronic inflammation of the intestinal mucosa is manifested. Without dietary measures, in many cases it leads to the destruction of the epithelial cells in the intestine . As a result, the body can no longer absorb nutrients correctly. Digestion remains incomplete.

This disorder triggers various symptoms. Digestive problems such as diarrhea are characteristic , but also vomiting , loss of appetite, weight loss, depressive symptoms, tiredness and concentration problems. In children, celiac disease can also disrupt physical development. Affected children develop physiologically more slowly than healthy peers. Medicine refers to this clinical picture as failure to thrive. The extent of the symptoms depends on how severe the gluten intolerance is in the individual case. Some sufferers experience only mild digestive discomfort, while others experience severe functional impairment.

Gluten intolerance can be hereditary. People with celiac disease experience symptoms throughout their lives when they eat gluten; there is no cure. However, those affected can control the disease by changing their diet and avoiding foods containing gluten. Not only do you need to stop eating grains containing gluten, you may also need to consider contamination in other foods. People with uncontrolled celiac disease have an increased risk of certain cancers and diabetes .

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.