Gluten is a composite of the proteins "gliadin" and "glutenin". These exist, conjoined with starch, in the endosperms of some grass-related grains, notably wheat, rye, and barley. Gliadin and glutenin comprise about 80% of the protein contained in wheat seed. Being insoluble in water, they can be purified by washing away the associated starch. Worldwide, gluten is an important source of nutritional protein, both in foods prepared directly from sources containing it, and as an additive to foods otherwise low in protein.

The seeds of most flowering plants have endosperms with stored protein to nourish embryonic plants during germination, but true gluten, with gliadin and glutenin, is limited to certain members of the grass family. The stored proteins of maize and rice are sometimes called glutens, but their proteins differ from wheat gluten by lacking gliadin. The glutenin in wheat flour gives kneaded dough its elasticity, allows leavening and contributes chewiness to baked products like bagels.

Although wheat supplies much of the world's dietary protein and food supply, as many as 0.5% to 1% of the population of the United States has celiac disease, a condition which results from an inappropriate immune system response to gluten. [cite journal
last = Presutti
first = John
authorlink =
coauthors = et al.
title = Celiac Disease
journal = American Family Physician
volume = 76
issue = 12
pages = 196–1802
publisher =
location =
date = 2007-12-27
url =
doi =
id =
accessdate =

Hill, I. D., Horvath, K., and Fasano, A., "Epidemiology of Coeliac disease." 1: Am J Gastroenterol. 1995 Jan;90(1):163-4
] The manifestations of celiac disease range from no symptoms to malabsorption of nutrients with involvement of multiple organ systems. The only effective treatment is a lifelong gluten-free diet.


Legend attributes the discovery of gluten to Buddhist monks in 7th century China who sought meat-like ingredients for use in their vegetarian diet. With easily available wheat flour and water they made a dough which they submerged in cold water and kneaded. The water dissolved the starchy components of the dough and left behind an insoluble, gummy mass, 70% to 80% of which was gluten.

Gluten is still extracted from flour by washing out the starch by means not fundamentally different from the ancient way, which exploited the fact that starch is water-soluble while gluten is not — also, that gluten binds together strongly, while starch dissolved in cold water is mobile. If a saline solution is used instead of water a purer protein is obtained, with certain harmless impurities going into solution with the starch. However, on an industrial scale, starch is the prime product, so cold water is the favored solvent. To effect the separation, a slurry of wheat flour is stirred vigorously by machinery until the starch dissolves and the gluten consolidates into a mass, which is collected by centrifugation, then carried, by complex machinery, [cite web
url =
title = Starch Technology & Industrial Biotechnology
publisher = Westfalia Separator Industry
accessdate = 2007-08-14
] through several stages combined into a continuous process: Approximately 65% of the water in the wet gluten is removed by means of a screw press, and the residue is sprayed through an atomizing nozzle into a drying chamber, where it remains at an elevated temperature only long enough to evaporate the water without denaturing the gluten. This yields a flour-like powder with a 7% moisture content, which is quickly air-cooled and pneumatically transported to a receiving vessel. In the final step, the collected gluten is sifted and milled to make the product uniform. [ "Wheat", GEA Barr-Rosin, Accessed 2007-09-04]


When dough made with wheat flour is kneaded, gluten forms when glutenin molecules cross-link to make a sub-microscopic network and associates with gliadin, which contributes viscosity and extensibility to the mix. [ Woychick, J.H., et al (1961). [] . "The Gluten Proteins and Deamidated Soluble Wheat Protein (SWP)". Retrieved on 10 November, 2007.] If such dough is leavened with yeast, sugar fermentation produces bubbles of carbon dioxide which, trapped by the gluten network, cause the dough to swell or "rise". Baking coagulates the gluten, which, along with starch, stabilizes the shape of the final product. Gluten content has been implicated as a factor in the staling of bread, possibly because it binds water by hydration. [Sahlstrom, S. & Brathen, E. (1997). "Effects of enzyme preparations for baking, mixing time and resting time on bread quality and bread staling." Food Chemistry, 58, 1, 75-80. Effects of wheat variety and processing conditions in experimental bread baking studied by univariate and multivariate analyses.]

The development of gluten (i.e., enhancing its elasticity) affects the texture of the baked goods. Gluten's attainable elasticity is proportional to its content of glutenins with low molecular weights because that fraction contains the preponderance of the sulfur atoms responsible for the cross-linking in the network. [cite journal
last = Edwards
first = N. M.
coauthors = Mulvaney, S. J.; Scanlon, M. G.; Dexter, J. E.
year = 2003
title = Role of gluten and its components in determining durum semolina dough viscoelastic properties
journal = Cereal chemistry
issn = 0009-0352
volume = 80
issue = 6
pages = 755–763
url =
accessdate = 2007-08-14
doi = 10.1094/CCHEM.2003.80.6.755
] [cite journal
last = Tosi
first = Paola
coauthors = Masci, Stefania; Giovangrossi, Angela2; D'Ovidio, Renato; Bekes, Frank; Larroque, Oscar; Napier, Johnathan;

Shewry, Peter
year = 2005
month = September
title = Modification of the Low Molecular Weight (LMW) Glutenin Composition of Transgenic Durum Wheat: Effects on

Glutenin Polymer Size and Gluten Functionality
journal = Molecular Breeding
volume = 16
issue = 2
pages = 113–126
url =
accessdate = 2007-08-14
doi = 10.1007/s11032-005-5912-1
] More development leads to chewier products like pizza and bagels, while less development yields tender baked goods. In general, bread flours are high in gluten while cake flours are low. Kneading promotes the formation of gluten strands and cross-links, so a baked product is chewier in proportion to how much the dough is worked. Increased wetness of the dough also enhances gluten development. [cite web
url =
title = Baking Technology, Bread
publisher = Bakersassist
accessdate = 2007-08-14
] Shortening inhibits formation of cross-links, so it is used, along with diminished water and minimal working, when a tender and flaky product, such as pie crust, is desired.

Gluten, dried and milled to powder and added to ordinary flour dough, improves rising and increases the bread's structural stability and chewiness, [Amendola, J., Rees, N., & Lundberg, D. E. (2002). "Understanding Baking"] . Such doughs must be worked vigorously if they are to rise to their full capacity, so a bread machine or food processor may be required for their kneading. [Echkardt, LW & Butts, DC. (1997). "Rustic European Breads from your Bread Machine"] The added gluten provides supplemental protein to what would otherwise be high-carbohydrate preparations. The protein content of pet foods is also enhanced by adding gluten. [cite web
url =
title = Pet Foods
publisher = International Wheat Gluten Association
accessdate = 2007-08-14
] When cooked in broth, gluten absorbs some of the surrounding liquid (including the taste) and becomes firm to the bite, so is widely used in vegetarian, vegan and Buddhist cuisines as a meat substitute. In China, as "miàn jin", it is the basis for imitation meats resembling chicken, duck, fish, pork and beef. The Japanese variants, called "namafu", "yakifu", and "seitan", are used in the same way.

Gluten as an additive

The "Codex Alimentarius" set of international standards for food labeling has a standard relating to the labelling of products as "gluten free", however this standard does not apply to "foods which in their normal form do not contain gluten". [cite web|url=|publisher=Codex Alimentarius|title=Codex Standard For "Gluten-Free Foods" CODEX STAN 118-1981|date=February 22, 2006|format=PDF] Gluten is used as a stablizing agent in products like ice-cream and ketchup, where it may be unexpected. [cite web|url=|title=Gluten sensitivity more widespread than previously thought|publisher=Colorado State University Extension|author=Pat Kendall, Ph.D., R.D.|date=March 31, 2003] [cite web|url=|title=Following a Gluten-free Diet|publisher=Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center|author= |date= A Harvard teaching hospital] Foods of this kind present a problem because the hidden gluten constitutes a hazard for people with celiac disease: In the United States, at least, gluten may not be listed on the labels of such foods because the U.S, Food and Drug Administration has classified gluten as GRAS (Generally recognized as safe). [cite web|url=|title= Sec. 184.1322 Wheat gluten|publisher= Code of Federal Regulationsl Center|author= |date= April 1, 2007] Requirements for proper labeling are being formulated by the USDA. In the United Kingdom, only cereals currently need to be labelled, while other products are voluntary [cite web|url=|month=November | year=2005|title=Guidance Notes on the Food Labelling (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2004|publisher=Food Standards Agency|format=PDF] .In fact, in the UK most gluten free food is clearly labelled so, as is non-gluten-free food.

Adverse reactions

Between 0.5 and 1.0 percent of people in the United States are sensitive to gluten ""National Digestive Disease Clearing House, NIH (2004} "Celiac Disease" Accessed 28-Aug-2006] [cite web
url =
title = Celiac disease
publisher = National Institutes of Health (NIH) Consensus Development Panel on Celiac Disease
year = 2005
accessdate = 2007-08-14
] Coeliac disease (or celiac disease, also called gluten sensitive enteropathy (GSE)), caused by an abnormal immune reaction to partially digested gliadin, is the predominant disorder. It probably occurs with comparable frequencies among all wheat-eating populations in the world.cite journal | author = van Heel D, West J | title = Recent advances in coeliac disease | url = | journal = Gut | volume = 55 | issue = 7 | pages = 1037–46 | year = 2006 | pmid = 16766754 | doi = 10.1136/gut.2005.075119] Certain allergies and neuropathies are also caused by gluten consumption and inhalation. [cite web
url =
title = Gluten Sensitive Enteropathy
author = David A. Nelsen
accessdate = 2007-08-14

Note that wheat allergy and gluten intolerance are not the same thing. [cite web|url=|title=Food intolerance andcoeliac disease|publisher=Food Standards Agency|date=May 10, 2006|format=PDF]

See also

* Textured vegetable protein
* Zein
* Triticeae glutens


Further reading

* citation
last1=Curtis |first1=B.C. |last2=Rajaram |first2=S. |last3=Macpherson |first3=H.G.
title=Bread Wheat, Improvement and production — FAO Plant Production and Protection Series No. #30. |url= |accessdate=2007-08-21

* citation|last=Pfluger |first=Laura
title=Marker Assisted Selection in Wheat, "Quality traits. Gluten Strength", Coordinated Agricultural Project (funded by USDACREES) |url= |accessdate=2007-09-29

* citation |publisher=USDA Cereal Disease Laboratory
title=Agricultural Databases, Statistics, etc. |url=
unused_data=|accessdate 2007-9-2007

* citation |last=Wieser |first=H.
title=Cereal Chemistry and Dough Properties, KL1-"Gluten Chemistry"
publisher=German Research Centre of Food Chemistry and Cereal Chemistry and Hans-Dieter-Belitz-Institute for Cereal Grain Research, D-85748 Garching, Germany
year=2007 |url= |accessdate=2007-09-27

* citation |last1=Wrigley |first1=C.W |last2=Bekes |first2=F. |last3=Bushuk |first3=W
title=The Gluten Composition of Wheat Varieties and Genotypes
publisher=AACC International |year=2006 |url= |isbn=1-891127-51-9 |accessdate=2007-09-21

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  • gluten — 1630s, any sticky substance, from M.Fr. gluten (16c.) or directly from L. gluten glue (see GLUE (Cf. glue)). Used 16c. 19c. for the part of animal tissue now called FIBRIN (Cf. fibrin); used since 1803 of the nitrogenous part of the flour of… …   Etymology dictionary

  • gluten — glùtēn m <G gluténa> DEFINICIJA biol. 1. ljepljiva tekućina u životinjskim tijelima 2. smjesa bjelančevina sadržana u pšeničnom brašnu ETIMOLOGIJA lat. gluten: ljepilo …   Hrvatski jezični portal

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  • gluten — [glo͞ot′ n] n. [L gluten, glue, akin to LL glus, GLUE] a gray, sticky, nutritious mixture of proteins, including gliadin, found in wheat and other grain: it gives dough its tough, elastic quality glutenous adj …   English World dictionary

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