Sunday, June 5, 2011

"The Demon, Gluten"

The fear of gluten, for most people, may be the "fear of the moment," with 25% of the population concerned about gluten intake (Associated Press, 2010) and less than 1% actually sensitive to it (Rubio-Tapia et al. 2009), but the evidence for increased auto-immune diseases as a whole, and this includes diabetes, lupus, etc., is strong. It does appear that the prevalence of celiac disease, (an auto-immune disorder triggered by gluten) along with many other autoimmune diseases is increasing (again Rubio-Tapia et al.) The Rubio-Tapia study shows a large increase (keeping in mind that the percentage of the population affected is very small) in prevalence of celiac disease based on evaluation of blood samples collected between WWII and the present day. What is causing such increased incidence of reactions? Why would gluten sensitivity have increased since WWII? I can only imagine what people with the immune disorder known as celiac disease experience, and I can understand their fear and desire to demonize gluten, .

But, what, if anything, is driving changes in autoimmune diseases? Immunotoxic chemicals, fetal programming, excessive hygiene (the hygiene hypothesis), viruses? It would seem that the demon is this driver, rather than some particular trigger like gluten.

Rubio-Tapia A, Kyle RA, Kaplan EL, Johnson DR, Page W, Erdtmann F, Brantner TL, Kim WR, Phelps TK, Lahr BD, Zinsmeister AR, Melton LJ 3rd, Murray JA (2009). Increased prevalence and mortality in undiagnosed celiac disease. Gastroenterology Gastroenterology, 137 (1), 88-93 DOI: 10.1053/j.gastro.2009.03.059

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