Celiac.com 06/05/2013 - In the west, sorghum has traditionally been used to feed livestock. However, in Africa and India, it has long been used to feed people.

Photo: CC--agrilifetodayRecently, U.S. farmers have begun producing sorghum hybrids that are white in color, known as "food-grade" sorghum. In an effort to determine if these new hybrids are safe for people with celiac disease, a team of researchers set out to make a detailed molecular study.

The team included Paola Pontieri, Gianfranco Mamone, Salvatore De Caro, Mitch R. Tuinstra, Earl Roemer, Josephine Okot, Pasquale De Vita, Donatella B. M. Ficco, Pietro Alifano, Domenico Pignone, Domenica R. Massardo, and Luigi Del Giudice.

They are variously affiliated with the Istituto di Genetica Vegetale (IGV), CNR−Portici, c/o Dipartimento di Biologia, Sezione di Igiene, Napoli 80134, Italy, the Istituto di Genetica e Biofisica “Adriano Buzzati-Traverso” (IGB-ABT), CNR, in Napoli, Italy, the Istituto di Scienze dell’Alimentazione (ISA), CNR, in Avellino, Italy, with the Consiglio per la Ricerca e la sperimentazione in Agricoltura, Centro di Ricerca per la Cerealicoltura (CRA-CER) in Foggia, Italy, the Dipartimento di Scienze e Tecnologie Biologiche e Ambientali at the Università degli Studi di Lecce, Italy, and the Istituto di Genetica Vegetale, CNR, in Bari, Italy, with the Department of Agronomy at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, the Nu Life Market in Healy, Kansas in the United States, with Victoria Seeds Ltd. in Kampala, Uganda.

Their study, which includes molecular evidence that sorghum lacks the proteins toxic to people with celiac disease, appears in ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Paola Pontieri and colleagues explain that those gluten proteins, present in wheat and barley, trigger an immune reaction in people with celiac disease that can cause abdominal pain and discomfort, constipation, diarrhea and other symptoms.

This strong new biochemical evidence shows that these sorghum hybrids are safe for people with celiac disease.

The researchers describe evidence from an analysis of the recently published sorghum genome, the complete set of genes in the plant, and other sources, that verify the absence of gluten proteins. They also note that sorghum has provides high nutritional value.

Their report concludes that "[f]ood-grade sorghums should be considered as an important option for all people, especially celiac patients."

The authors acknowledge funding from the Regione Campania, the Istituto Banco di Napoli -- Fondazione and the Compagnia di San Paolo.

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