Understanding Lupin

March 25, 2016

Another word for lupin is lupine and it’s a legume which belongs to the same plant family as peanuts belong to. Many people can eat flour made from a lupin-derived ingredient or regular lupin according to senior medical advisor at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Stefano Luccioli, M.D. In some medical literature however, reactions to lupin for some people can be quite severe.

Some reactions can include a severe response to an allergen called anaphylaxis which may even include shock. This is life-threatening and can occur very fast. Lupin are allergens and they can cause this type of response.

People will develop an allergy to lupins over time like they do with all allergens. For people that already have a legume allergy, eating lupin could cause an allergic response even if they eat the food just once. People that are allergic to peanuts according to studies, have a greater chances of having an allergy to lupin. Parents know how to look for and to avoid peanuts if they have a child with a peanut allergy, but they may not know what a lupin is or if this is an ingredient which could harm their child.

For many Europeans, lupin is a staple food and they may be more aware of the allergenic properties of it and are more accustomed to seeing it as a food ingredient, but it’s quite new to the U.S. market. Many Americans may not even have heard of the legume. It may be found at Italian or other ethnic stores as lupini beans or it can be found in packaged products.

It can be Found Often in Gluten-Free Products

Lupin may become more popular because foods made with lupin-derived ingredients are the perfect substitutes for gluten-containing flours and it’s often used in gluten-free products. Today, there are more gluten-free products on store shelves and people that have an awareness about gluten are buying them. These buyers need to know that lupin may be a potential allergen for them.

You need to Read the Label

Food labels are required by law to list the ingredients of the product. When lupin is found in a food then it has to be listed on the label. Consumers that are looking to avoid lupin and those that have allergies to peanuts need to be careful and need to look for “lupine” or “lupin on their food labels and avoid the food if it’s there.

If you feel that you’re having an allergic reaction to lupin then you need to stop eating the product and seek medical care. You may have symptoms like hives, vomiting, swelling of your lips, or difficulty breathing according to Luccioli.

What is Gluten-Free?

August 25, 2014

People with celiac disease can now have confidence in the meaning of a “gluten-free” label on foods.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a final rule that defines what characteristics a food has to have to bear a label that proclaims it “gluten- free.” The rule also holds foods labeled “without gluten,” “free of gluten,” and “no gluten” to the same standard.

This rule has been eagerly awaited by advocates for people with celiac disease, who face potentially life-threatening illnesses if they eat the gluten found in breads, cakes, cereals, pastas and many other foods.

As one of the criteria for using the claim “gluten-free,” FDA is setting a gluten limit of less than 20 ppm (parts per million) in foods that carry this label. This is the lowest level that can be consistently detected in foods using valid scientific analytical tools. Also, most people with celiac disease can tolerate foods with very small amounts of gluten. This level is consistent with those set by other countries and international bodies that set food safety standards.

“This standard ‘gluten-free’ definition will eliminate uncertainty about how food producers label their products and will assure people with celiac disease that foods labeled ‘gluten-free’ meet a clear standard established and enforced by FDA,” says Michael R. Taylor, J.D., deputy FDA commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine.

Andrea Levario, executive director of the American Celiac Disease Alliance, notes that there is no cure for celiac disease and the only way to manage the disease is dietary—not eating gluten. Without a legal definition of “gluten-free,” these consumers could never really be sure if their body would tolerate a food with that label, she adds.

“This is a tool that has been desperately needed,” Levario says. “It keeps food safe for this population, gives them the tools they need to manage their health, and obviously has long-term benefits for them.”

“Without proper food labeling regulation, celiac patients cannot know what the words ‘gluten free’ mean when they see them on a food label,” says Allessio Fasano, M.D., director of the Center for Celiac Research at MassGeneral Hospital for Children, visiting professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and member of the American Celiac Disease Alliance.

What Is Gluten?

Gluten means the proteins that occur naturally in wheat, rye, barley, and crossbreeds of these grains.

As many as 3 million people in the United States have celiac disease. It occurs when the body’s natural defense system reacts to gluten by attacking the lining of the small intestine. Without a healthy intestinal lining, the body cannot absorb the nutrients it needs. Delayed growth and nutrient deficiencies can result and may lead to conditions such as anemia (a lower than normal number of red blood cells) and osteoporosis, a disease in which bones become fragile and more likely to break. Other serious health problems may include diabetes, autoimmune thyroid disease and intestinal cancers.

Before the rule there were no federal standards or definitions for the food industry to use in labeling products “gluten-free.” An estimated 5 percent of foods currently labeled “gluten-free” contain 20 ppm or more of gluten.

How Does FDA Define ‘Gluten-Free’?

In addition to limiting the unavoidable presence of gluten to less than 20 ppm, FDA will allow manufacturers to label a food “gluten-free” if the food does not contain any of the following:

  1. an ingredient that is any type of wheat, rye, barley, or crossbreeds of these grains
  2. an ingredient derived from these grains and that has not been processed to remove gluten
  3. an ingredient derived from these grains and that has been processed to remove gluten, if it results in the food containing 20 or more parts per million (ppm) gluten

Foods such as bottled spring water, fruits and vegetables, and eggs can also be labeled “gluten-free” if they inherently don’t have any gluten.

The regulation will be published Aug. 5, 2013 in the Federal Register, and manufacturers have one year from the publication date to bring their labels into compliance. Taylor says he believes many foods labeled “gluten free” may be able to meet the new federal definition already. However, he adds, “We encourage the food industry to come into compliance with the rule as soon as possible.”

Under the new rule, a food label that bears the claim “gluten-free,” as well as the claims “free of gluten,” “without gluten,” and “no gluten,” but fails to meet the requirements of the rule would be considered misbranded and subject to regulatory action by FDA.

Those who need to know with certainty that a food is gluten-free are heralding the arrival of this definition. “This is a huge victory for people with celiac disease,” says Levario. “In fact, that’s the understatement of the year.”

Says Taylor, “FDA’s ‘gluten-free’ definition will help people make food choices with confidence.”

Celiac Disease

October 10, 2011

According to the National Institutes of Health, celiac disease affects as many as 1 percent of the U.S. population.

The disease occurs when the body’s natural defense system reacts to gluten by attacking the lining of the small intestine. Without a healthy intestinal lining, the body cannot absorb the nutrients it needs. Delayed growth and nutrient deficiencies can result and may lead to conditions such as anemia and osteoporosis. Other serious health problems may include diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and intestinal cancers.

“Some people don’t get immediate symptoms, but when they do, they are typically gastrointestinal-related, such as abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea,” says Luccioli. “In infants, there may be a lot of vomiting, and they don’t grow and thrive.” And some people do not have any symptoms at all, adds Luccioli, but still may have intestinal damage and risk for long-term complications. It is important for individuals with celiac disease, who may vary in their sensitivity to gluten, to discuss their dietary needs with their health care professional.

Grocery shopping is challenging for people with this disease, says Andrea Levario, J.D., executive director of the American Celiac Disease Alliance. “When they find a product labeled ‘gluten-free,’ they don’t necessarily know what that means because today there is no federal standard for the use of this term.”

Having a federal definition of “gluten-free” is critically important, says Levario. “If we have one national standard, the individual will know that all products labeled ‘gluten-free’ will have no more than a minimal amount of gluten.”

Gluten-Free Breads

September 30, 2011

Whether as muffins, rolls, or loaves, wheat bread is found in most households. But few consumers may appreciate the substance that helps the dough rise, keeps the bread from falling apart, makes it chewy, and adds to its flavor.

That substance is gluten. Breads, cakes, cereals, pastas, and many other foods are made with wheat or added wheat gluten to improve their baking quality and texture.

Technically, gluten represents specific proteins that occur naturally in wheat. However, the term “gluten” is commonly used to refer to certain proteins that occur naturally not only in wheat, but also in rye, barley, and crossbreeds of these grains and that can harm people who have celiac disease. The only treatment for this disorder is a life-long gluten-free diet.

Eating gluten doesn’t bother most consumers, but some people with celiac disease have health-threatening reactions, says Stefano Luccioli, M.D., a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allergist and immunologist. They need to know whether a food contains gluten.

FDA has been working to define “gluten-free” to:

  • eliminate uncertainty about how food producers may label their products.
  • assure consumers who must avoid gluten that foods labeled “gluten-free” meet a clear standard established and enforced by FDA.

FDA’s actions on Aug. 2 bring the agency one step closer to a standard definition of “gluten-free.” On this date:

  • FDA reopens the public comment period on its proposed gluten-free labeling rule published on Jan. 23, 2007.
  • FDA makes available, and seeks comments on, a report on the health effects of gluten in people with celiac disease. The report includes a safety assessment on levels of gluten sensitivity in people with the disease.

Is Gluten-Free for Me?

“Eating gluten-free is not meant to be a diet craze,” says Rhonda Kane, a registered dietitian and consumer safety officer at FDA. “It’s a medical necessity for those who have celiac disease.”

“There are no nutritional advantages for a person not sensitive to gluten to be on a gluten-free diet,” she adds. “Those who are not sensitive to gluten have more flexibility and can choose from a greater variety of foods to achieve a balanced diet.”

Gluten-free is not synonymous with low fat, low sugar, or low sodium. For people who must be on a gluten-free diet, Kane says it’s important to check the ingredients list and Nutrition Facts information on food labels to find the most nutritious options.