Here are some unpalatable statistics: A total of 1.8 million Americans have celiac disease and nearly as many –– 1.4 million –– don’t know they have it. And ponder this: Nearly five times as many people have celiac disease today than in the 1950s, with the rate doubling every 15 years since 1974.

Adding to the problem is that the average person never even heard of this disease for decades after it was first discovered. Only in recent years has awareness risen and gluten-free diets and food become popular. Another major problem is that this autoimmune disease presents with symptoms common to other maladies –– bloating, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, fatigue, anemia and joint pain.

 

Despite this gloomy picture, there now is some good news for celiac patients looking for another suitable grain to use in baking bread and cakes and cookies. Sorghum, a gluten-free grain popular in Africa, Central America and South Asia is a safe food ingredient for people with celiac disease, according to scientists. They say that to date the grain mainly has been used in animal feed in the United States. Recently, however, U.S. farmers have begun producing sorghum hybrids that are a white grain, known as “food-grade” sorghum.

 

Reporting in the ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Paola Pontieri and colleagues explain that the unpleasant symptoms, caused by body’s immune system attacking the digestive system, are set off by exposure to gluten, a protein composite found in such grains as wheat, rye and barley.  The only treatment is avoiding breads and other foods that contain gluten. Sorghum, they note, is a welcome, alternative grain for people with celiac disease.

 

They say that a recent analysis of the sorghum plant clearly showed that there was no evidence of any genes related to the troublesome gluten protein. And in addition to this positive finding, they noted that sorghum is a highly nutritional grain.

 

What do you think? Would you eat a sorghum pastry?  A sorghum cereal?


“Sorghum, a Healthy and Gluten-Free Food for Celiac Patients As Demonstrated by Genome, Biochemical, and Immunochemical Analyses,” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry

 

*Journalists can request a PDF of the journal article by emailing newsroom@acs.org

 

 

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Credit: iStockphoto/Thinkstock 

 

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