The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Wheat - a prime source of gluten
Wheat - a prime source of gluten

Gluten is an amorphous ergastic protein found combined with starch in the endosperm of most cereals. It constitutes about 80% of the proteins contained in wheat and is composed of the proteins gliadine and glutenine . Gluten is responsible for the elasticity of kneaded dough which allows it to be leavened, as well as the "chewiness" of baked products like bagels.



Gluten can be extracted from the flour of wheat and other grains by washing the starch out. To do this, a simple dough of flour and water is rinsed with plain water and kneaded until the rinsing water remains clear and free from starch and bran. For chemical, non-food purposes, a saline solution provides better results. The remaining lump of gluten should have a stringy, sticky texture reminiscent of chewing gum.


Cooked gluten becomes firm to the bite and soaks up a certain amount of the surrounding broth and its taste. It is therefore commonly used in Chinese Buddhist and vegetarian cuisine, where it is also called seitan. Some consider it a convincing imitation meat, when the broth is flavored accordingly.

In the process of baking, gluten is responsible for keeping the fermentation gases in the dough, allowing it to rise. After baking, the coagulated gluten ensures that the final product keeps its shape.

Maladies caused by gluten

Some people have an allergy to gluten and must go on a gluten-free diet. In their case, the gluten damages the mucosa of the small intestine in a way that a normal digestion becomes impossible. After avoiding gluten completely, the intestine will return to functioning normally.

People with celiac disease have a hereditary, genetic predisposition to autoimmune reaction to gluten in their digestive system and must avoid it entirely. People with autism and autistic spectrum disorders, like Asperger's syndrome, may be sensitive to gluten and casein (a protein in milk). See more at gluten-free, casein-free diet. Another condition which may cause one to follow a gluten-free diet is dermatitis herpetiformis.

Gluten is found in most cereals (e.g., wheat, rye and barley) and their end products. No gluten is contained in rice, soybean (soya), maize (corn), buckwheat, and sunflower seeds, for example. Oats and Teffs do not contain gluten, but are usually milled on the same equipment as other grains that do, and so are commonly contaminated.

See also

Last updated: 02-08-2005 11:41:55
Last updated: 04-30-2005 09:53:14