Is Corn Gluten Something Celiacs Need to Care About?

WTF?!?“Gosh, Emily,” some of you might be thinking to yourselves, “However do you manage to come up with so many things to write about?”

I would like to tell you that the answer involves magic and also a room full of carefully-trained monkeys, but that would be a lie (the monkeys receive little — if any — training). However, it does involve some handy Google Alerts, within which there is one topic I keep weeding out (pun intended): corn gluten.

Every time I see corn gluten, it’s in reference to herbicide. Not to eating, or cooking, or celiac disease. So is it something you or I need to care about?

The short answer, for those of you in a hurry: no.

The long answer is interesting, though. In the early 1990s, a series of patents were granted for the use of corn gluten as a natural herbicide, suitable for use on organic crops. More often than not, it pops onto my alerts via a local newspaper’s gardening column, as a recommended weed-killer. Iowa State University has a great page on corn gluten meal, if you want to get into the details.

If you search around the net for more info, one of the top results is this article from Scott Adams — from 1996. The article’s got quite some legs — it’s 15 years old and still being commented on.

It basically boils down to this: corn does not have gluten in it. This is a misnomer. Corn — like all grains — does have storage proteins in it. And these proteins aren’t good for people who have intolerances or allergies to corn. But for people whose issues are strictly related to gluten, corn is not a problem.

So, if you see corn gluten listed in your pet food or you find out that your favorite organic farm uses it as an herbicide — breathe deep, and relax. If you find that you’re having reactions to something corn-based, then the best thing to do is see a specialist who can test you for corn-specific sensitivities.

I want to also mention this one study from 2005, which popped up in the search results. My reasons are twofold: first, if you do some searching of your own you’ll find it, and I don’t want you to think I didn’t see it. Second, if I translate it from science-speak to people-speak it’s hysterically funny. The study in question is from Gut Journal. Gut is by all means an excellent, excellent journal, it’s just that the study in question’s aims aren’t at all related to the question of corn gluten.

The study used wheat and corn “rectal challenges”, and then measured the release of certain gasses from 31 adults. Corn was meant as the control group. In other words, 31 brave souls got wheat or corn enemas, and then scientists monitored their gas. Yes. That’s right. Now, some of the handful of folks in the celiac+corn group still had abnormal gas, which would be a red flag except that a) after the fact, researches had the corn analyzed and it tested to 82ppm gluten (not from corn, but from cross-contamination) and b) the study directly states that the average celiac is more likely to have trouble with corn than the average non-celiac.

All of which is to say: if you don’t have a corn sensitivity, don’t worry about corn gluten. And whether or not you have a corn sensitivity, be glad you weren’t in that study.

2 thoughts on “Is Corn Gluten Something Celiacs Need to Care About?”

  1. I purchased “Amy’s Gluten Free Pizza”. It did say made in a facility that processes wheat. I had a gluten reaction to this product. I was sick all day. My reactions to gluten are severe diarrhea, abdominal pain and dry heaves. I become dehydrated and I am not good for anything the whole next day, due to the dehydration. I drink fluids, expecially Gatorade, to try to feel normal again. I went to her website and let them know what happened to me. I have not heard a word from them. You’d think they would like to keep up their good name?? I have never had a problem with other foods that say made in a facility that processes wheat. I guess I’ve been lucky! Never again!

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