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.
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.