Wheat is one of the most frequently consumed ingredients in the world. That said, an increasing number of people develop wheat-sensitivity which is usually attributed to gluten. However, the latest study has identified wheat protein associated not only with wheat sensitivity but with a tremendous ability to aggravate chronic health conditions. Keep reading to find out more about this groundbreaking discovery.
What did scientists discover?
A research whose findings were presented at the UEG Week 2016 in Vienna, Austria found that a family of proteins in wheat could be responsible for triggering inflammation in various chronic health conditions. The meeting is organized by the United European Gastroenterology for specialists to present their discoveries regarding digestive and liver diseases as well as to develop discussions on this subject.
Wheat has become a major dietary staple, and it is widely used in processed food items which don’t necessarily count as healthy foods. Although gluten is well-known and usually associated with wheat sensitivity, scientists at the Johannes Gutenberg University from Germany have identified amylase-trypsin inhibitors (ATIs) as proteins in wheat which trigger an immune response in the gut which also has the potential to spread to other tissues in the organism.
What are ATIs? It’s a family of plant-derived proteins which inhibit enzymes of common parasites like mealybugs and mealworms in wheat. These proteins have a significant role in metabolic functions that occur during seed development.
Until now, scientists usually carried out studies to analyze the impact of gluten on digestive health, but the latest research shows that ATIs have a significant influence on digestive health and beyond. Although this protein family is small and accounts for 4% of all wheat proteins it still produces significant inflammatory responses that affect:
What conditions are linked to ATIs?
Lead author of the study, Prof. Detlef Schuppan, revealed that ATIs aggravate the following conditions:
It’s also important to mention that these proteins also add to the development of non-coeliac gluten sensitivity. The type of gut inflammation characteristic for non-coeliac gluten sensitivity is different from that induced by coeliac disease, which is why scientists don’t believe it is caused by gluten primarily.
Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity refers to the case when an individual doesn’t tolerate gluten and experiences similar symptoms to those of coeliac disease such as abdominal pain and irregular bowel movements; which is why it’s usually difficult to set the two apart. That said, non-coeliac gluten sensitivity is also indicated by a headache, foggy mind, eczema, joint pain, and numbness in legs, arms, or fingers. That’s why the lead author of the study calls for redefining of this condition to a more appropriate term.
Professor Schuppan explained that as well as making a great contribution to the onset of bowel-related inflammatory conditions, ATIs also promote inflammation of other immune-related chronic diseases outside the bowel. ATIs found in wheat activate specific types of immune cells in the gut and other tissues, thus worsening the symptoms of pre-existing inflammatory illnesses.
Findings presented in Vienna emphasize the importance of conducting more studies that will inspect other proteins in wheat and their impact on one’s health. It already made an impact on the world of science as clinical studies whose aim is to explore the role of chronic health conditions are about to commence. The goal here is to inspect the link between these proteins, immune responses, inflammations and chronic diseases in greater detail.
Does this mean I should switch to wheat-free diet?
At this point, you’re probably asking yourself whether you should follow a wheat-free diet. First, you should bear in mind that little is known about ATIs and although gluten-free diet is recommended for people with the non-coeliac disease it doesn’t mean it’s good for everyone. For example, a study from the Journal of Pediatrics, a gluten-free diet isn’t beneficial for people who don’t suffer from non-coeliac gluten sensitivity. That said, since the findings of the recent study that identified a new family of proteins with a negative impact on chronic health conditions were presented in October 2016, it’s early to say whether people with these diseases should avoid wheat entirely. Don’t forget that avoiding wheat would also indicate reduced intake of fiber, minerals, and vitamins that your body needs.
Coping with chronic health conditions
If you’re suffering from some chronic health conditions, the following tips will help you:
Scientists from Germany discovered that a protein family, ATIs, causes inflammation and aggravates various chronic conditions and it also contributes to the non-coeliac gluten sensitivity. More research is necessary to understand the impact of these proteins on one’s chronic health conditions more thoroughly.