Gluten in the News
People have been contacting me a lot about wheat and gluten lately. In reading many of the articles, the only thing I’ve found of much interest was this interview with Dr. Alessio Fassano, the Medical Director for The University of Maryland’s Center for Celiac Research.
Dr. Fassano says that a major protein in gluten, called gliadin, contains some protein fragments that humans cannot digest. He says we cannot digest them because we do not have an enzyme to break the bond between the amino acids glutamine and proline. These fragments don’t get digested and can end up in the blood where our system might react against them producing illness. In the case of celiac disease, our body reacts in a way that destroys the cells lining the intestines.
I had never heard that humans cannot digest the glutamine-proline bond, nor could I verify it. However, I did find this interesting article, Grains in Relation to Celiac (Coeliac) Disease, that has images showing the protein fragments that are a problem in celiac disease as well as the molecular structure of gliadin.
Some people who react negatively to wheat do not have celiac disease but instead have gluten sensitivity. The symptoms can be similar, though usually not as intense: digestive problems, inflammation, fatigue, joint pain, etc. (the interview with Dr. Fassano lists more). If you suffer from these symptoms, gluten could be a problem for you and it might be worth eating gluten-free for a while to see if it helps.
In terms of gluten being unhealthy for everyone – I remain rather skeptical. Here are a couple posts on grains that readers might find of interest. The research on wheat versus other grains and their relation to chronic illness or weight gain is currently lacking.