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Eh? Gluten or Glucan? Is it a no-no or yes-yes?



A lot of people get confused between Gluten and Glucan, mostly because the two words sound almost the same. And right there in the middle of this huge conundrum is oats because we dont know whether it has Gluten or Glucan. So is oats good or bad for you? Does it have Gluten or Glucan? And what on earth is Gluten or Glucan anyway?

Getting Lost in Translation

Let’s clear this up right away.

Oats has Glucan or in its more correct terminology ─ Beta-Glucan. Therefore, oats is good for you.

Beta-Glucan is a type of fiber found in the cells of certain types of yeast, algae, bacteria, fungi (mushrooms) and also certain plants such as oats and barley. Beta-Glucan is reputed to have cholesterol-lowering as well as blood-sugar regulating properties when consumed orally and in the correct amounts. This means it has the potential to keep heart disease as well as diabetes at bay.

Here are more wonders of Beta-Glucan:

Oat Beta-Glucan powder
Oat Beta-Glucan powder

1. Beta-Glucan and Heart Health

According to the Malaysian Ministry of Health (MOH), European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and US Food Drug Administration (US FDA), the amount of Beta-Glucan recommended to be consumed to achieve a cholesterol-lowering effect is 3g per day. That boils down to two full scoops of the spoons provided in the tins of the many Beta-Glucan supplements in the market today.

Some of these include Biogrow’s BG22, Kordel’s Active Oats 35, Sunfield’s  Beta Oat 33, Liphora’s Oat Bran Powder and so on and so forth. Some come in powdered form to be shaken, stirred and drunk 20 minutes before a meal; others come in capsule form while still others come in breakfast cereal form.

2. Beta-Glucan and Cancer

Rolled oats. Beta-Glucan is derived from yeast, algae, bacteria, fungi as well as barley and oats
Rolled oats. Beta-Glucan is derived from yeast, algae, bacteria, fungi as well as barley and oats

Beta Glucan, according to, can also be used to counter certain types of cancer.  One study showed that combining a type of Beta-Glucan called lentinan with chemotherapy can help people with gastric cancer live longer. Another study showed Beta-Glucan may help people with cervical and head and neck cancers as well. Both studies, however, require more research.  Beta-Glucan does not work by killing cancer directly although scientists think they may boost the immune system to enable the body to fight the disease more efficiently.

3. Beta-Glucan and AIDS goes on to say that early evidence shows that the supplement’s immune-boosting abilities may also help people with AIDS as it may help lower risk for infections after surgery and trauma.

4.  Beta-Glucan and Weight Loss

Supplement makers sometimes claim that the fiber in Beta-Glucan supplements can help you feel fuller which in turn makes you eat less which in turn could make you lose weight. Furthermore,  Beta-Glucan helps regulate the bowels, but do ensure sufficient intake of fresh, green fiber and water throughout the day or the opposite may occur.

Gluten could be a bomb in some people's stomachs
Gluten could literally be a time bomb in some people’s stomachs

So What’s the Story with Gluten?

Gluten, on the other hand, gives us sticky issues. Gluten comes from the Latin word “glue” which lives up to its name once swallowed into your stomach. Gluten is a protein composite found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye and a cross between wheat and rye called triticale.  We often use wheat flour in baking because the Gluten in it gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keep its shape and gives the final product a chewy texture.

After years of consuming highly-processed Gluten-laden products, we now find that more and more people cannot tolerate Gluten anymore. This has given rise to the new health tout called the Gluten-free diet.

Gluten, the Bad Guy

Gluten isn’t bad in and by itself, but some people are Gluten-intolerant, meaning their bodies produce an abnormal immune response when it breaks down Gluten from wheat and related grains during digestion.

The most well-known form of Gluten intolerance is celiac disease. When someone with celiac disease consumes Gluten, it triggers an immune response that causes inflammation and damage in the intestines. The vital nutrients are not absorbed and the runs usually ensues.

Celiac Disease:  A disease in which the small intestine is hypersensitive to gluten, leading to difficulty in digesting food.

Gluten:  A substance present in cereal grains, especially wheat, that is responsible for the elastic texture of dough. A mixture of two proteins, it causes illness in people with celiac disease.


Celiac Disease and Non-Celiac Gluten Sensivity

Wheat allergy is a rare type of Gluten intolerance — it’s a classic food allergy marked by skin, respiratory or gastrointestinal reactions to wheat allergens.gluten-warning

Recently, scientists have become aware of another potential form of intolerance called nonceliac Gluten sensitivity. After consuming Gluten, patients with Gluten sensitivity may experience many celiac disease symptoms, such as diarrhea, fatigue and joint pain, but don’t appear to have damaged intestines.

In cases of Gluten intolerance, doctors typically recommend a Gluten-free diet. Patients must avoid eating any foods and ingredients that contains Gluten, including bread, beer, french fries, pasta, salad dressing, soy sauce and even some soups (unless otherwise marked as “Gluten-free”).

How come Oats is in Hot Soup?

Oats itself does not contain Gluten.  I repeat. Oats itself does not contain Gluten. It is naturally Gluten-free.

However, some people on a Gluten-free diet are careful about consuming oats because of possible cross contamination with the other rotation crops planted in the same field.

Oats is a rotation crop. It is planted with Gluten-laden wheat, barley and rye. Those in agriculture will know that volunteer plants are grown as an alternative crop when they have been planted in the field the previous year. The fields are not separated and in so doing, the oats become contaminated with the wheat, barley or rye in the field.

If you have celiac disease or are Gluten-intolerant, you will have to avoid all this
If you have celiac disease or are Gluten-intolerant, you will have to avoid all this

Cross-contaminated with the other grains also occur because the same harvesting and processing equipment are used for all the grains. For those with celiac disease or are Gluten intolerant, regular oats should not be eaten with abandon. To be sure, buy oats with Gluten-free certification on the packaging.

Otherwise, oats ─ the miracle grain ─ which contain no Gluten but plenty of Glucan (Beta-Glucan that is), is absolutely good and even necessary for you and your daily diet.

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