Self-diagnosis intolerance: "free of" food only makes sense for certain food intolerances
Gluten-free bread, pizzas, ice cream, lactose-free cooked ham or rusks - sales of special "free of" foods are booming. For lactose-free food alone, sales in 2014 were EUR 285 million and for gluten-free food EUR 105 million. Ascending trend. More and more people are accessing foods that are free of gluten or lactose - without a medical need.
These foods are a blessing for celiac patients, wheat allergy sufferers, people with wheat or gluten sensitivity or lactose intolerance and make everyday life easier. If you suffer from one of these intolerances, the only sensible therapy is to leave out the food with the ingredients that trigger the disease. Because the complaints subside or stay away. "They have no proven health benefit for any other person," judges the DGE in its 13th nutritional report. Obviously, many consumers generally associate “free of” foods with positive, health-promoting aspects, such as weight loss or general health benefits. A study by the Gesellschaft für Konsumforschung (GfK) showed that around 80% of buyers of lactose-free foods have no proven lactose intolerance.
Gluten-free foods - in which situations are they useful?
The range of gluten-free products has increased significantly in recent years. And the introduction of the allergen labeling obligation represents a significant improvement in health protection for those affected. Both developments are welcomed by the DGE, because they make food selection easier. For people suffering from celiac disease, wheat allergy and gluten or wheat sensitivity, it makes sense to avoid gluten or wheat. Celiac disease and wheat allergy can now be proven without a doubt by the specialist.
Symptoms of gluten or wheat sensitivity are similar to those of celiac disease or wheat allergy. It is unclear whether there are other triggers in the wheat. The doctor, on the other hand, only diagnoses gluten or wheat sensitivity by excluding celiac disease and wheat allergy and by performing a gluten-free elimination diet followed by a controlled provocation test. However, many consumers do without wheat products - without a medical report, but based on self-diagnosis, according to the motto: "I can not tolerate this - I would rather leave it out."
A voluntary waiver of foods containing gluten does not automatically mean a health-promoting diet - just as gluten-free foods are sometimes advertised. The food does not only differ in taste and price. By omitting gluten and switching to other ingredients or foods, there are changes in the energy and nutrient supply. These are not always in favor of the consumer.
Some gluten-free foods have a comparatively higher fat content, while the proportion of fiber, vitamins and minerals is lower. If wheat and other cereals containing gluten such as spelled, green seed, rye, oats and barley are removed from the menu for a long time, there may be a reduced intake of fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, zinc and iron. By avoiding whole grains, the preventive effects regarding the development of cardiovascular diseases and certain cancer diseases remain unused.
Lactose free at all costs?
There is currently no legal regulation for the term “lactose-free”. The food industry offers a wide range of products with this name. This includes foods such as black bread, rusks or cooked ham, whose lactose content is only low. This leads to uncertainty among many of those affected. To be on the safe side, they use labeled, but often more expensive products. The conventional food would have no disadvantages.
Lactose (= milk sugar) is a natural sugar found in milk and foods made from it. Lactose intolerance is one of the most common food intolerances and leads to intestinal problems such as abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence or nausea. Very few people with lactose intolerance have to do without lactose completely. They often tolerate small amounts as they appear in a slice of cheese, a yoghurt or in finished products.
Those who consume "free of" products without food intolerance often pay more - but have no health benefit for this, according to the DGE. The omission of individual foods or groups increases the risk of nutrient deficits and can lead to health restrictions in the long term. Anyone who has to do without certain foods for health reasons can get individual and everyday help from a qualified nutritionist. (pm, sb)