May 27 National Celiac Disease Awareness Day

To celebrate this holiday, Sara Martínez López, professor of Nutrition at theUniversidad Europea pens an article about the problems of this disease.

May 27 is National Celiac Disease Awareness Day Celiac disease is not a rare disease but rather an intestinal disorder characterized by an intolerance to gluten, a protein present in some grains. When a celiac eats gluten, the small intestinal mucous membrane suffers a permanent inflammatory process that hinders the absorption of nutrients in food and causes various intestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, etc.

According to the Association of Celiacs and Gluten Sensitivity of Madrid, approximately 1% of the population suffers this disease. "True" celiacs are those individuals who are genetically predisposed to developing the intolerance, which can be diagnosed at any age. However, eight out of ten people who follow a gluten-free diet do so to lose weight without any medical justification. They are known as "false" celiacs. In an interview with ABC, Dr Garaulet, Full Professor of Physiology and Nutrition at the University of Murcia, recommended against eating gluten-free products to control obesity, considering "in any case it increases the feeling of hunger and insulin resistance."

The only treatment to control celiac disease involves a lifetime of following a strict diet, either through gluten-free foods, or products specially created for celiacs. Most foods that are on the market are not suitable for celiacs, which further complicates the life of a celiac. Therefore, the Federation of Associations of Celiacs of Spain (FACE), which is heavily involved in giving visibility to the disease, has developed a comprehensive list of gluten-free foods, including fresh foods such as meat, fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables, pulses and some grains, such as rice and corn. On the contrary, foods that contain wheat, barley, oats, rye and hybrid varieties should be completely eliminated from the diet of a celiac, as well as packaged and technologically processed food, which despite being gluten-free, may incorporate it during processing.

In addition, foods for celiacs must display "gluten-free" labeling, which ensures less than 20 ppm of gluten, unlike food that is "very in low gluten" (not suitable for celiacs). However, the new European regulation (No. 828/2014), which comes into force on July 20, 2016, has caused much controversy as it also includes the specifications "developed specifically for people intolerant to gluten" or "made specifically for celiacs" which could lead to confusion.

Sara Martínez López, Adjunct Professor in the Pharmacy and Biotechnology Department