Does anybody really know what gluten is? Does anybody really care?


Now that there’s a multibillion-dollar market for gluten-free foods, people are ready to ask the essential question: What is gluten anyway?

Answers are everywhere, and some of them are even the right answers.

The ASAPScience team went to work on the matter and offers a neat and brief explanation in the video above.

Last week, Jimmy Kimmel sent a reporter out to ask people who don’t eat gluten what it was they were avoiding. None of them knew. Or ask Seth Rogen, who says, “Gluten is a vague term ... used to categorize things that are bad.”


Well, not quite. Gluten is two proteins found in wheat, barley and rye. A gluten-free diet is the only current treatment for celiac disease, and a smitch of gluten can make someone who has that very sick. But beyond those people -- 1 in 133 of us -- there are plenty of others who have decided not to eat gluten. Some for medical reasons, some because they’ve decided it’s a good diet for them.

But as the ASAPScience guys correctly note in their video, which had nearly half a million views as of early Friday afternoon, going gluten-free is not necessarily a more healthful diet. Many products reformulated to cut out gluten often replace the wheat with additional sugar or fat. People who choose a gluten-free diet to lose weight could be disappointed.

But there’s been a bit of a backlash, and industry watchers say the next wave of gluten-free foods are likely to include more nutritious substitutes -- such as amaranth -- and be more attentive to healthfulness.

Gluten-free junk food is still junk food, several speakers noted at a recent expo on gluten-free food and issues in San Diego. As with all efforts to eat a healthful diet, read the labels of processed food, and include plenty of fruits and vegetables. For many people, Grandma’s advice still stands.