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When the staff of life becomes the stuff of death....

> . .or at least the stuff of disability. Gluten is the very useful protein in wheat, rye and (possibly) oats that helps bread to rise by keeping in the bubbles of carbon dioxide generated by yeast. It is also able, however, to produce severe illness in persons with celiac disease, also known as nontropical sprue.

The reason celiac patients cannot tolerate gluten is not clear, but is probably due to their inability to digest this protein completely. The undigested portion produces a toxic reaction in the lining of the intestine, whose cells are then not only unable to absorb other food elements, but also cause the loss of fluid. Such as reaction can produce diarrhea, weight loss, vitamin deficiencies, and other serious consequences.

Persons intolerant to gluten are taught to avoid foods known to contain the protein and to read the labels of all packaged foods carefully. Unfortunately, gluten is used as a thickener or binder in many different kinds of foods, and not all products list it on the label. Although about one-fifth of patients with celiac disease always seem to have symptoms no matter how carefully they follow a gluten-free diet, other patients often recover on a strict diet. Given the inadequacies of package labeling, a search has been made for a home testing kit that these patients could use to test foods with which they are unfamiliar.

The British medical journal, Lancet, reports that such a test has now been developed in Australia. Diluted hydrochloric acid can be added to a particular food sample to extract any available gluten. The extract is then put into a test tube containing gluten antibodies. Finally, chemicals are then added to indicate by a color change the level of gluten present. Although not yet commercially available, the gluten detection kit should offer the celiac patient a fighting chance of avoiding the offending protein until stricter government regulations on manufacturing and labeling are put into place.

With a minor variation (i.e., use of a different type of antibody in the test tube) such a test kit could also be used for detecting other problem food ingredients, such as lactose or milk contaminants. The New England Journal of Medicine recently reported case reports of six patients who were allergic to milk. These patients had adverse reactions after eating frozen desserts labeled "non-dairy" or "pareve" (containing neither meat nor milk products), or processed meats with no milk products listed on their labels. In each case, traces of milk protein were found.
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Title Annotation:gluten detection kit for celiac disease patients
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Jun 1, 1991
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