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People with Celiac Get Good News about Grain Alternative

celiac and grain alternative

If you are among the estimated one in 144 people in the United States with celiac disease, you know how difficult it can be to find safe foods, especially when it comes to grain products. Now researchers say they have definitive genetic and biochemical proof that the wheat grain alternative called sorghum, which is often fed to animals, is safe for people with celiac disease.

Isn’t sorghum for cows?

If you have heard of sorghum, you may already know that it’s typically raised in Western countries to feed animals. However, sorghum is commonly used in India and Africa as food for people, and food-grade sorghum hybrids are being raised by US farmers.

Although sorghum seeds, flour, and grain products are available in the United States, they are not commonplace. The findings of new research from a team of experts in Brazil may help launch sorghum into a more prominent position in the marketplace, at least for people with celiac disease.

People with celiac cannot tolerate proteins called gluten, which are found in wheat, barley, and other common grains. When people with celiac consume gluten, the protein triggers an immune reaction that causes abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, and other symptoms, as well as eventually damages the intestinal tract.

Previous immunochemical studies and other research have shown that sorghum is a safe, gluten-free food. Recently, however, researchers in Brazil set out to determine the safety of sorghum as a food for people with celiac by evaluating the grain at its most basic, molecular level.

To accomplish this task, they examined information about the sorghum genome (complete set of genes of the plant) and other data, which allowed them to announced that “Food-grade sorghums should be considered as an important option for all people, especially celiac patients.”

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What is sorghum?
Sorghum is a cereal grain that grows mainly in semiarid environments, as it is extremely tolerant of heat and drought. Nearly 40 percent of the sorghum grown in the world is used for human food.

Food grade sorghum seeds are red or white (American varieties) and slightly smaller than peppercorns. You can purchase either the seeds and grind them yourself into flour and grits using a flour mill, or buy the flour. Numerous online venues and natural food stores are the best sources of sorghum.

Sorghum flour is an excellent to very good source of a number of nutrients. One-half cup of sorghum flour contains approximately 220 calories, 2 grams of fat, 4 grams of fiber, and about 5 grams of protein. It also provides about 10% of daily value of iron, 15% of niacin, 11% of thiamin, 38% of manganese, 18% of magnesium, and 17% of phosphorus, as well as good amounts of other vitamins and minerals.

New research has proven that on a genetic level, sorghum is a safe grain alternative for people with celiac. If you or a loved one has celiac disease and you have not tried sorghum, it may be time to sample it.

National Foundation for Celiac Awareness
Pontiere P et al. Sorghum, a healthy and gluten-free food for celiac patients as demonstrated by genome, biochemical, and immunochemical analyses. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2013; 61(10): 2565-71

Image: Morguefile