More Gluten In New Wheat Not Responsible For More Celiac Disease
    By News Staff | February 6th 2013 04:18 PM | 1 comment | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    Celiac disease is not controversial, some people have always had it. But belief that it is on the rise - some claims are that the disease is four times more common today - rather than being diagnosed better, is controversial. And there is confusion created by marketing people who want to increase awareness of their products for dietary fashion reasons. 

    But one claim by concerned consumers merited scientific curiosity: that if there was an increase in celiac disease it may be caused by farmers growing strains of wheat that contain more gluten. 

    Celiac disease occurs when gluten, a protein in wheat, barley and rye, damages the lining of the small intestine, causing a variety of symptoms. If we don't accept that the disease is better diagnosed and is instead increasing, then there must be a reason why. One popular explanation among the gluten-free community is that wheat breeding led to production of wheat varieties containing higher levels of gluten. 

    Yet there is no real evidence for that claim, according to a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

    Donald D. Kasarda's Perspective article examined the scientific evidence for the hypothesis and found that gluten levels in various varieties of wheat have actually changed little since the 1920s. 

    But gluten consumption has increased due to other factors, one involves increased consumption of a food additive termed "vital gluten," which has tripled since 1977. Vital gluten is a food additive made from wheat flour, and it is added to various food products to improve  characteristics like texture.

    Overall consumption of wheat flour also has increased, so that people in 2000 consumed 2.9 pounds more gluten annually than in 1970, nearly a 25 percent increase.


    There is one study that tested blood samples from WW2 pilots (blood samples kept in storage). That study showed that fewer celiacs were found in the pilots, then in today's population. THAT is being used as justification that "celiac is more common".

    I think though, that the logic is flawed. First, celiac kids prior to WW2 were very likely to die in childhood. Celiac kids are way sicklier than other kids, and get all kinds of diseases. When antibiotics got invented, a lot of those sickly kids started growing up, so yes, there are probably more celiacs in the adult population today.

    Second, war pilots were THE healthiest of the healthy males. I'm kind of amazed that any of the blood samples showed celiac. The fact they could have celiac and still passed their physicals, shows just how insidious the disease is.

    Nevertheless, the celiac pilots didn't live as long as the non-celiacs. It was a nasty disease at the turn of the century, and it's a nasty disease now, regardless of the type of wheat.