Gluten-free fads are all the rage and a preliminary result by reseachers at the University of Copenhagen want to see if there are health benefits for people who don't have celiac disease.
Their experiments on found that mouse mothers on a gluten-free diet led to pups less likely to develop type 1 diabetes. There's no reason to start paying 242% more for your food just yet.
More than 1% of the Danish population has type 1 diabetes, one of the highest incidence rates in the world. The hope is that the disease may be prevented through simple dietary changes, the researchers say. Why worry about gluten? It clearly existed long before a modern diet of processed food coupled with an indolent lifestyle lead to higher diabetes rates.
"Preliminary tests show that a gluten-free diet in humans has a positive effect on children with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes. We therefore hope that a gluten-free diet during pregnancy and lactation may be enough to protect high-risk children from developing diabetes later in life," says assistant professor Camilla Hartmann Friis Hansen from the Department of Veterinary Disease Biology, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences.
Despite only being preliminary results, they were published in Diabetes.
14 years of research into gluten-free diet
Findings from experiments on mice are not necessarily applicable to humans, but there is reason for optimism, says co-writer on the study professor Axel Kornerup from the Department of Veterinary Disease Biology, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences. "Early intervention makes a lot of sense because type 1 diabetes develops early in life. We also know from existing experiments that a gluten-free diet has a beneficial effect on type 1 diabetes."
Experiments of this type have been going on since 1999, originally initiated by Professor Karsten Buschard from the Bartholin Institute at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, a co-author of the study.
"This new study beautifully substantiates our research into a gluten-free diet as an effective weapon against type 1 diabetes," Buschard claims.
Gluten-free diet affects bacteria too? Is there anything it can't do?
The say their experiment showed that the diet changed the intestinal bacteria in both the mother and the pups. The intestinal flora is believed to play an important role for the development of the immune system as well as the development of type 1 diabetes, and the study suggests that the protective effect of a gluten-free diet can be ascribed to certain intestinal bacteria.
They defy science and and say the advantage of the gluten-free diet is that the only side-effect seems to be the inconvenience of having to avoid gluten. Yet there is no certain evidence of their effect much less side-effects and they seem to believe that extra sugar, extra fat, hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose and xanthan gum are somehow superior to wheat that has been around for thousands of years.
"We have not been able to start a large-scale clinical test to either prove or disprove our hypothesis about the gluten-free diet," says Karsten Buschard.
Assistant Professor Camilla Hartmann Friis Hansen is hoping that it will be possible to continue the work.
"If we find out how gluten or certain intestinal bacteria modify the immune system and the beta-cell physiology, this knowledge can be used to develop new treatments," she says.