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Chapter One

1.0 INTRODUCTION                        

1.1 Background of the Study

Gluten is a complex mixture of several related but distinct proteins, which can be grouped into a fraction formed by alcohol-soluble prolamins and another fraction formed by alcohol-insoluble glutelins (Wieser et al., 2010). The proteins in gluten can also be subdivided into three major groups, namely S-rich, S-poor and high molecular weight proteins (Balakireva and Zamyatnin, 2016). Gluten is the main storage protein of cereals such as wheat, rye, barley, and oats (Biesiekierski, 2017). Gluten is heat stable and so is used as a binding and extending agent as well as an additive in processed foods for improved texture, flavor, and moisture retention (Kucek et al., 2015).Because of these aforementioned properties, gluten can be found in products such as processed meat, reconstituted seafood, candies, ice cream, butter, seasonings, stuffings, marinades, confectionery, among others (Kucek et al., 2015).

Gluten-rich diets form an important part of human daily energy intake and nutritional requirements. For example, wheat is the staple food crop in temperate countries and increasingly consumed in developing countries, displacing traditional foods (Balk et al., 2019). According to FAO (2019), world cereal production is expected to reach a new record level of 2 722 million tonnes in 2019of which wheat, maize and barley would account for most of the rise. The acceptability of wheat is as a result of its adaptability and high yield potential as well as gluten content which is responsible for the viscoelasticity of dough processed into bread, pasta, noodles, etc. (Shewry, 2009). Wheat also contributes essential amino acids, minerals, and vitamins as well as beneficial phytochemicals and dietary fibre components to the human diet ((Shewry, 2009). Barley is also highly adaptable and ranked 4th in term of production behind wheat, maize and rice (Zhou 2010). Barley is widely consumed as food and drink because of its high nutritional content, particularly, it is a rich source of carbohydrates and beta-glucan compared to other cereals (Noaman, 2017).

However, there is a controversy surrounding the health safety of gluten-rich diets. Some studies, including Lerner et al. (2017) and Schalk et al. (2017), had implicated gluten diets in hypersensitivity reactions such as celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity as well as cytotoxic and inflammatory effects. On the other hand, several studies such as Neyrinck et al. (2012) and Shewry and Heyas (2015) had linked gluten-containing diets with reduced heart disease and stroke, development of type 2 diabetes as well as increased probiotic activities. The uncertain health safety of gluten has made some people to adopt gluten-free diets, which may affect global cereal production and commercial activities. As such, a study is needed to clear this controversy so as to restore the confidence of the consumers, or suggest palliative measures if gluten is implicated.

1.2 Justification for the Study

Considering the role of whole grain foods (most of which contain gluten) in maintaining national economy worldwide, it is necessary to clear the controversy surrounding the health safety of gluten. If found nontoxic, it will allay the fear of consumers, which will in turn boost the cultivation and economic activities of whole grain foods such as wheat, rye, barley, among others. It will also boost the acceptability and sales of processed foods that contain gluten. If found toxic, the findings of the study may go a long way in formulating ameliorative strategies and reducing the effects of gluten.

1.3 Statement of the Research Problem

  • Gluten-rich diets, particularly whole grains such as wheat and rye constitute a significant part of the global economy and human nutritional requirements.
  • However, the production of gluten-rich grains and processed foods containing gluten are at risk as some people are currently adopting gluten-free diets due to unclear health safety of the protein.
  • While some studies had linked gluten with adverse health effects, other studies reported beneficial and neutral effects.
  • As such, an in-depth scientific study is needed to ascertain the health safety of gluten.
  • This will restore the confidence of consumers if found non-toxic, or enable scientists to proffer ameliorative measures if found toxic.

1.4 Aim of the Study

The aim of this study is to determine the effects of gluten-rich diets on liver enzymes and tissues on some treated rats.

1.5 Objectives of the Study

The objectives of the study are: To

  • determine effects of gluten on liver enzymes of rats administered gluten-rich diets.
  • evaluate effects of gluten on liver and reproductive organs of rats exposed to gluten-rich diets.
  • examine effects of gluten on reproductive activities of rats treated with gluten-rich diets.

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