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.
It 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.
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.