Celiac.com Sponsor (A1):



Celiac.com Sponsor (A1-m):


  • You've found your Celiac Tribe! Join our like-minded, private community and share your story, get encouragement and connect with others.

    💬

    • Sign In
    • Sign Up
  • Gryphon Myers

    An Evolutionary Explanation for Gluten Intolerance

    Gryphon Myers
    0
    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Celiac.com 07/04/2012 - It is becoming increasingly clear that celiac disease (or some form of gluten sensitivity) affects many more people in the world than estimates from the past few decades suggested. In the 1950s, celiac disease was estimated as affecting 1 in 8000 individuals worldwide, while today that number has grown to 1 in 100. Seeking to explain why this sizable portion of our population cannot tolerate gluten, Professor David Sanders, who is a Consultant Gastroenterologist at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital and University of Sheffield, looks to evolution for answers.

    monkey_eating_bread-CC_Curtis_Palmer1.jpgIt is hard to think of a world without bread, as even Ancient Romans harvested grain. But wheat is actually a new food for us: it was only widely introduced into the human diet roughly ten thousand years ago, which is a very small percentage (0.4%) of the 2.5 million years our species has walked the planet.



    Celiac.com Sponsor (A12):






    Celiac.com Sponsor (A12-m):




    So what were we eating that other 99.6% of our life as a species? We ate things that are edible raw, without the need for processing or refinement (which wheat is not). Our ability to process grains to an edible form was a technological development that did not occur until a relatively recent chapter in our history.

    In a sense, then, our ingenuity is ahead of our biology. As Dr. Sanders says, “... it makes sense that our bodies are still adapting to this food, and more specifically, the gluten it contains.” After millions of years of what is essentially gluten-free dieting, our bodies might be ill-equipped to process gluten, as it is still a relatively foreign substance.

    Source:

    0

    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments



    Guest Heather Twist

    Posted

    The problem with this article is that wheat really has not been in the diet of MOST people for 10,000 years. A relatively few people have had it that long, but for most of the world ... it's only been around for say, 100 to 200 years. Since the time of sailing ships.

     

    Wheat was altered when the "new world" was colonized, and "winter wheat" was bred. Wheat became the main crop for America, and then later, corn. America changed the entire world cuisine, contributing peppers, corn, squash, and beans. Wheat, on the other hand, came to the Americas, and was altered for the climate. It turned out to be a good fit, and "waves of amber grain" became our symbol.

     

    Wheat these days is exported pretty much everywhere, and has become the "main starch" in many cultures. Unfortunately, yes, most humans are not adapted for it. It's a highly problematic food, since it acts as a drug on many people (addictive) and also ellicits an immune reaction.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    The problem with this article is that wheat really has not been in the diet of MOST people for 10,000 years. A relatively few people have had it that long, but for most of the world ... it's only been around for say, 100 to 200 years. Since the time of sailing ships.

     

    Wheat was altered when the "new world" was colonized, and "winter wheat" was bred. Wheat became the main crop for America, and then later, corn. America changed the entire world cuisine, contributing peppers, corn, squash, and beans. Wheat, on the other hand, came to the Americas, and was altered for the climate. It turned out to be a good fit, and "waves of amber grain" became our symbol.

     

    Wheat these days is exported pretty much everywhere, and has become the "main starch" in many cultures. Unfortunately, yes, most humans are not adapted for it. It's a highly problematic food, since it acts as a drug on many people (addictive) and also ellicits an immune reaction.

    I agree.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Almost everything that we eat is the result of domestication, not just wheat (seafood is an exception). As omnivores we are well adapted to being opportunistic in our diet (unlike, say, sheep).

     

    We have almost no idea about the true worldwide prevalence of celiac disease in 1950, since accurate diagnostics are a relatively recent invention.

     

    Apart from the issues for celiacs, I disagree that wheat (or other grains) is a "highly problematic food": grains are arguably the key to the current state of development of our civilization, since they permitted transportation and storage of an energy-dense food, which was vital for the development of cities.

     

    As far as evolution goes, there is a current hypothesis that the high prevalence of a harmful disease like celiac disease is actually the result of a POSITIVE selection advantage conferred by celiac disease-related genes, as a result of greater resistance to gut pathogens.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    I knew this and was hoping to learn something new, that perhaps celiac disease confers a selective advantage, as the last commenter, Peter, suggested or something like the heterozygote advantage conferred by the cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia genes.

     

    I would remind the Peter about GMO salmon!

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Could it be posible that the reason for the high prevalence of celiac disease at the present time compared to the past century is due to the fact that in the past, (i.e. 1950s), wheat, (and other gluten containing cereals) were only in bread, cereals, pasta, cakes etc., whereas nowadays it's in almost every processed/prepared food that we eat? The only way to avoid it seems to be to go back to a fresh food diet.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    Almost everything that we eat is the result of domestication, not just wheat (seafood is an exception). As omnivores we are well adapted to being opportunistic in our diet (unlike, say, sheep).

     

    We have almost no idea about the true worldwide prevalence of celiac disease in 1950, since accurate diagnostics are a relatively recent invention.

     

    Apart from the issues for celiacs, I disagree that wheat (or other grains) is a "highly problematic food": grains are arguably the key to the current state of development of our civilization, since they permitted transportation and storage of an energy-dense food, which was vital for the development of cities.

     

    As far as evolution goes, there is a current hypothesis that the high prevalence of a harmful disease like celiac disease is actually the result of a POSITIVE selection advantage conferred by celiac disease-related genes, as a result of greater resistance to gut pathogens.

    Has anyone studied the hypothesis that the GMO wheat that we are eating is killing our gut bacteria cause indigestion problems and might be the cause of celiac disease? My thoughts are that if the wheat is designed to resist insects (contain insecticide), we may be ingesting man-made chemicals that kill natural bacteria found in our stomachs and therefore can no longer tolerate wheat as our body's natural defense system creates a warning that something is not right... hence celiac disease, stomach problems, indigestion, etc.

     

    Has anyone researched this theory?

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    Guest frazere@gmail.com

    Posted

    Mr. Myers it seems, makes some reasonable points, but his lifelong commitment to vegetarianism should be reason enough to disqualify him from making any statement on the evolutionary diet.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    Mr. Myers it seems, makes some reasonable points, but his lifelong commitment to vegetarianism should be reason enough to disqualify him from making any statement on the evolutionary diet.

    Just to clarify, these are the thoughts/findings of someone else... I just summarized.

     

    Even so, vegetarianism doesn't figure into this... we're talking about processed foods here. Since our earliest years, we could eat both vegetation and meat. The versatility of our diet is evidenced by our dentition. We have canines, incisors and molars: we essentially have the choice of eating whatever we want. Thus, meat and vegetables are equally "correct" for a human diet.

     

    Processed foods, on the other hand, were NOT available when we evolved. These are the foods that the research calls into question.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    Has anyone studied the hypothesis that the GMO wheat that we are eating is killing our gut bacteria cause indigestion problems and might be the cause of celiac disease? My thoughts are that if the wheat is designed to resist insects (contain insecticide), we may be ingesting man-made chemicals that kill natural bacteria found in our stomachs and therefore can no longer tolerate wheat as our body's natural defense system creates a warning that something is not right... hence celiac disease, stomach problems, indigestion, etc.

     

    Has anyone researched this theory?

    There is no such thing as GMO wheat! Do a little research and you'll find out the changes that occurred with wheat was done with hybridization - natural process using two varieties of wheat.

     

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Whether you choose to call it GMO or hybridization, the results are the same. The issue Fed Up did not address is that prior to the 1970s, most wheat farmers held back part of their crop yield as seed wheat for the following season. The large conglomerates that developed the newer strains of wheat to be more drought resistant and produce higher yields convinced farmers it was in their best interest to sell all of their harvest and purchase hybrid/GMO seed wheat from the various seed (chemical) companies who developed them in the first place. What this "new seed" did was contain more gluten than the "old wheat," and there is more than just random conjecture that the alarming increase in gluten intolerance and celiacs is directly related to the higher gluten content in the "new" wheat. My cousin was diagnosed with the disorder in the 1960s and no one knew of it. There were no gluten-free products to be purchased off grocery or health food shelves. Now - gluten free is all the rage. Problem is, research is showing that wheat gluten - because it is in virtually everything we purchase when it doesn't need to be - is causing more and more people, myself included, to be gluten intolerant. Physicians and researchers are linking more and more modern-day disorders and allergies to gluten - including ADHD, NOS auto-immune/connective tissue disorders, and even some believe depression and other chemical imbalance disorders as well. With all of the artificial food we consume these days in the name of convenience - it would be difficult to place all of the blame on gluten. But given that there are so many problems cropping up surrounding gluten, combined with the consumption of petroleum-based, artificial foods - it's a wonder our livers and our guts have not exploded. As for me - I love wheat flour in most of its forms, but I have become virtually gluten free because I just feel better. A moment on the lips is not worth a week's worth of joint pain and diarrhea.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    The problem with this article is that wheat really has not been in the diet of MOST people for 10,000 years. A relatively few people have had it that long, but for most of the world ... it's only been around for say, 100 to 200 years. Since the time of sailing ships.

     

    Wheat was altered when the "new world" was colonized, and "winter wheat" was bred. Wheat became the main crop for America, and then later, corn. America changed the entire world cuisine, contributing peppers, corn, squash, and beans. Wheat, on the other hand, came to the Americas, and was altered for the climate. It turned out to be a good fit, and "waves of amber grain" became our symbol.

     

    Wheat these days is exported pretty much everywhere, and has become the "main starch" in many cultures. Unfortunately, yes, most humans are not adapted for it. It's a highly problematic food, since it acts as a drug on many people (addictive) and also ellicits an immune reaction.

    Not trying to be a jerk here, but you seem to underestimate the length of time that humans have been navigating the oceans and seas - by a LOT. Tobacco and "new world" plant remains found in urns and amphorae in the Mediterranean etc.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites



    Join the conversation

    You are posting as a guest. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
    Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

    Guest
    Add a comment...

    ×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

      Only 75 emoji are allowed.

    ×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

    ×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

    ×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • About Me

    Gryphon Myers recently graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in interdisciplinary studies, research emphasis in art, society and technology. He is a lifelong vegetarian, an organic, local and GMO-free food enthusiast and a high fructose corn syrup abstainer. He currently lives in Northern California. He also writes about and designs video games at Homunkulus.


  • Celiac.com Sponsor (A17):
    Celiac.com Sponsor (A17):





    Celiac.com Sponsors (A17-m):




  • Related Articles

    Roy Jamron
    This article appeared in the Summer 2008 edition of Celiac.com's Scott-Free Newsletter.
    Celiac.com 06/16/2008 - Do vitamin D deficiency, gut bacteria, and timing of gluten introduction during infancy all combine to initiate the onset of celiac disease? Two recent papers raise the potential that this indeed may be the case. One paper finds that when transgenic mice expressing the human DQ8 heterodimer (a mouse model of celiac disease) are mucosally immunized with gluten co-administered with Lactobacillus casei bacteria, the mice exhibit an enhanced and increased immune response to gluten compared to the administration of gluten alone.[1] A second...

    Jefferson Adams
    Celiac.com 06/15/2010 - A clinical team conducted a functional analysis of celiac risk loci, and found that SH2B3 offers protection against bacterial infection.
    The team included Alexandra Zhernakova, Clara C. Elbers, Bart Ferwerda, Jihane Romanos,  Gosia Trynka, Patrick C. Dubois, Carolien G.F. de Kovel, Lude Franke, Marije Oosting, Donatella Barisani, Maria Teresa Bardella, the Finnish Celiac Disease Study Group, Leo A.B. Joosten, Paivi Saavalainen, David A. van Heel, Carlo Catassi, Mihai G. Netea, and Cisca Wijmenga.
    Celiac disease has a fairly high morbidity, yet it is prevalent in Western populations at rates of of 1%–2%. So far, scientists do...

    Jefferson Adams
    Celiac.com 03/27/2013 - Increased rates of celiac disease over the last fifty years are not linked to wheat breeding for higher gluten content, but are more likely a result of increased per capita consumption of wheat flour and vital glutens, says a scientist working with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
    The researcher, Donald D. Kasarda is affiliated with the Western Regional Research Center of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service.
    Kasarda recently looked into one prominent theory that says that increased rates of celiac disease have been fueled by wheat breeding that has created higher gluten content in wheat...

    Jefferson Adams
    Celiac.com 01/08/2014 - Push-back mounts against a controversial new report alleging that genetically engineered foods may trigger gluten sensitivity and celiac disease.
    In the first salvo, Celiac Disease Foundation CEO Marilyn Geller derided the report, published last week by the Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT), as merely "speculative."
    Then followed comments by leading plant geneticist, Dr. Wayne Parrott, professor of crop science at the University of Georgia, that the report relied on "a handful of deeply flawed"studies and ignored "more than 1,000 studies that have been published in refereed journals and which show that GM crops are...