First biological reasons for wheat sensitivity identified: Study

By Natalie MORRISON

- Last updated on GMT

Other than dietary restriction of the offending foods, there is no other treatment and no medication is available for non-celiac wheat sensitivity. ©iStock
Other than dietary restriction of the offending foods, there is no other treatment and no medication is available for non-celiac wheat sensitivity. ©iStock

Related tags: Coeliac disease

Biological reasons for wheat sensitivity in non-coeliacs have been discovered for the first time, scientists say.

The study​ found that a significant number of people who report adverse reactions to wheat – but who do not have coeliac disease – had biomarkers indicating intestinal damage and systemic immune activation.

It is the first time biomarkers pointing to causes of wheat sensitivity in people who are not coeliacs have been identified.

The team are now looking at ways to develop a blood test which could be used to diagnose non-coeliac wheat sensitive patients, author professor Armin Alaedini of Columbia University medical centre, New York revealed.

“Currently, the only way for the diagnosis of non-coeliac wheat sensitivity is through thorough clinical examination that would involve food restriction and food challenge,” ​he told FoodNavigator.

As the new study shows clear biological changes in affected patients which trigger certain biomarkers: “We are working on developing a blood test that can be used to accurately diagnose cases of non-coeliac wheat sensitivity.”

It is hoped new treatment strategies will also become available as more discoveries about the potential mechanisms involved are made, Alaedini added. This will be both a challenge and an opportunity for the food industry, he said.

“We are only beginning to understand this condition. Other than dietary restriction of the offending foods, there is no other treatment and no medication is available for non-coeliac wheat sensitivity,” ​he noted.

“A lot more people than just those with coeliac disease and wheat allergy may need to avert foods that contain wheat and related cereals.”

The study

Stomach_tummy_abdominal_pain_IBS_bloating_iStock
Non-coeliac wheat sensitivity symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhoea, and bloating.©iStock

The study recruited 80 patients suffering from non-coeliac wheat sensitivity, who reported intestinal or extra intestinal symptoms after eating food containing glutens including wheat, rye and barley.

“Gastrointestinal symptoms, most commonly abdominal pain, diarrhoea, and bloating, as well as extra-intestinal symptoms, such as fatigue, anxiety, depressed mood, and cognitive difficulties are reported by these patients,”​ Alaedini explained.

Six intestinal biopsies and serum samples were taken from each participant while on a diet containing wheat, rye and barley, the team wrote in the journal Gut​. 

Participants reporting problems with wheat had significantly increased serum levels of soluble CD14 and lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-binding protein. These people had antibody reactions to bacterial LPS and the bacteria-related protein flagellin.

Significantly raised circulating levels of the fatty acid-binding protein 2 (FABP2) – a biomarker pointing to intestinal epithelial cell damage -- were also noted, which could explain immune responses to microbial products.

It was found the FABP2 levels became normal again in a subgroup of 20 study participants who excluded wheat and related cereals (barley and rye) from their diets for six months.

Further research

gut microbiota probiotics prebiotics digestive iStock ChrisGorgio
Though potential biomarkers were found, the study does not address mechanism or molecular triggers responsible for damaging the gut. ©iStock/ChrisGiorgio

The researchers stressed that, though potential biomarkers were found, the study does not address mechanism or molecular triggers responsible for damaging the gut.

Beside working on the development of a blood test for wheat sensitivity diagnosis, the team is therefore planning a number of follow-up studies to test which wheat products might be causing the intestinal cell damage in wheat sensitive patients, Professor Alaedini told us.

We don’t know how wheat-containing food might be causing the intestinal cell damage. In other words, the mechanism and trigger for the presumed intestinal damage in the affected individuals are not known. We are now working on this.”

In the paper, the team added: “Further research is needed to investigate the mechanism responsible for the intestinal damage and breach of the epithelial barrier, assess the potential use of the identified immune markers for the diagnosis of affected individuals and/or monitoring the response to specific treatment strategies, and examine potential therapies to counter epithelial cell damage and systemic immune activation in affected individuals.”

Source: Gut

Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2016-311964

“Intestinal cell damage and systemic immune activation in individuals reporting sensitivity to wheat in the absence of coeliac disease”

Authors: Melanie Uhde, et al​.

Related news

Show more

Related products

show more

Chicory root fibre for bread improvement

Chicory root fibre for bread improvement

Cosucra Groupe Warcoing SA | 03-Dec-2018 | Technical / White Paper

Fibruline™ Instant chicory root fibres is an excellent source of fibre for white bread production. It can be used with minimal adaptations of the recipe...

Related suppliers

5 comments

Show more

Your Blood Group determines if you can eat wheat

Posted by Ingrid,

Wheat lectins are harmful to blood group 0 etc. Dr D'Adamo has been teaching this for 30 years and those who follow his genetic diets are bemused by the endless speculation of what is wrong with wheat..

Report abuse

Link between Dental Sealants and Gluten Intolerance?

Posted by Ellie Phillips,

Dental researchers are looking at the grooves in molar teeth - and asking if they should be blocked by sealants and fillings. It appears certain oral bacteria create enzymes needed to digest carbohydrates - and these are found in the grooves of molar teeth.
Sealants, full coverage crowns and fillings could be involved in the development of gluten intolerance.

Report abuse

wheat & corn intolerance

Posted by Terri,

I don't eat either & try to avoid the by products as well which is difficult since so many things are made from corn and not named as such. In me it causes inflammation in all my joints, aggravating herniated discs, arthritis, & carpal tunnel.

Report abuse

Follow us

Products

View more

Webinars