The evolutionarily recent over-reliance on wheat-based products could be a reason behind the current increases in dietary problems related to gluten, according to an expert in digestive disorders.
Professor David Sanders, Consultant Gastroenterologist at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital and University of Sheffield, says, "Only for the past ten thousand years have we had wheat-based foods in our diets, which in evolutionary terms makes wheat almost a novel food. If you put that in context to the 2.5 millions years that mankind has been on earth, it makes sense that our bodies are still adapting to this food, and more specifically, the gluten that it contains."
So eat trees, like Australopithecus Sediba did. And wouldn't this gluten issue have happened hundreds or thousands of years ago? The West has the most balanced diet in world history, with the least dependence on one food type, so why would evolution occur in the new millennium so that wheat was going to be bad for middle-class white people?
Sanders' comments were prompted following the recent claim that potentially up to 6% of the population could be suffering from gluten sensitivity, making it by far the most common gluten-related disorder after celiac disease. Celiac disease currently affects around 1% of the population, which is an 80-fold increase in reported cases since the 1950s, when only 1 in 8000 were susceptible, compared with 1 in 100, today.
A recent survey commissioned by the Dr Schär Institute identified that GPs and dietitians frequently see patients with what they believe to be gluten sensitivity but they are uncertain how to manage the condition. Its gastrointestinal symptoms are general and include abdominal pain and bloating, diarrhea, constipation and generic malaise. Headache, fatigue, limb numbness and anemia make for diagnostic difficulties too. The survey found that 90% of dietitians and 86% of GPs claim to be aware of gluten sensitivity but more than half have a limited or average understanding of it.
Speaking on behalf of the Dr Schär Institute, dietitian Melissa Wilson, said, "The comments from Professor Sanders and the survey results demonstrate that serious confusion exists when experts try to diagnose or manage gluten sensitivity. GPs and dietitians are telling us that they do not feel there is enough information available, despite reporting a large number of patients displaying symptoms associated with the condition."
 Clinic data from Prof A Fasano, Baltimore Clinic, US
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 Sanders DS, Patel D, Stephenson TJ, Milford-Ward A, McCloskey EV, Hadjivassiliou M, Lobo AJ. A primary care cross-sectional study of undiagnosed adult coeliac disease. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol 2003;4:407-13.