Fact Or Fiction?: Celiac Patients Tolerate Hydrolyzed Wheat
Researchers are attempting to modify grains with the hope that it will eliminate immune reactions to the gluten within it. The belief is that a new modified product, such as hydrolyzed wheat, might give people who are diagnosed with a gluten intolerance, another option for food. A switch to a hydrolyzed wheat diet for others might also help to decrease the risk of developing a gluten intolerance. This research sounds promising and the end product may be beneficial.
Hydrolyzed wheat has been receiving some publicity lately. A new study found that patients with celiac disease appeared to tolerate hydrolyzed wheat for 60 days . The participants that ate fully hydrolyzed wheat protein didn’t have symptoms or intestinal changes, according to the study. Wheat was fully hydrolyzed (fermented) with sourdough lactobacilli and fungal proteases. This fermentation process lowered the gluten concentration in the final product (by digesting and breaking it into micro molecules) to 8 ppm.
This study is fascinating and might open the door for possible primary prevention, possible treatments and extra dietary options for people with gluten intolerance if it is proven to be safe in further studies. While this all sounds very exciting for the future, I think it is important to examine possible concerns associated with the use of hydrolyzed wheat protein as well.
One concern is that the findings evident in this study are based on a 60 day trial with a small group of people. I feel that a long term study (a decade or more) would give a more accurate picture of the results. Sometimes, the symptoms and damage associated with the ingestion of gluten can take many years, even decades, to cause enough damage to be picked up with the current tests. As well, the tests that are currently available, can have false negative results, especially in the early stages of the disease process. This study used anti–tissue transglutaminase antibodies and small bowel biopsies to test for a reaction. Both of these tests can have false negative results. In my book, I discuss 12 different tests that can be used. I worry that the use of only two tests may not be enough to accurately conclude that there was no reaction. Another concern, it may take years for such a low amount of gluten (8 ppm) to cause a problem. Therefore, I believe that a long-term study using multiple types of tests is needed to accurately conclude whether hydrolyzed wheat is safe.
Keep in mind that a completely gluten-free diet is ideal and recommended. I personally don’t want any gluten in my diet, not even 8 ppm.
A second concern, this study only examined patients with celiac disease, how would hydrolyzed wheat protein affect people with non-celiac gluten intolerance. I think people with various types of gluten intolerance should be tested, not just Celiacs.
A third concern, hydrolyzed wheat is an altered protein. How safe is this for people who may be consuming large doses of it for many years? If you find some studies (perhaps, I’ll do a future post on this topic), I suggest asking yourself a few questions. Are there studies available that have tested large groups of people over a long period to verify it’s safety? How accurate was the testing and the studies? Did the scientists have any conflicts of interest?
A fourth concern, the fermentation process involves the use of sourdough lactobacilli and fungal proteases. People who ingest the final product may need to be tested for allergies prior to using this product or periodically with any symptoms. For example, there may be an immune response to one of the fungal proteases (ie. aspergillis) or to the lactobacilli. As well, IgE mediated reactions to wheat can be heightened with the use of hydrolyzed wheat. The simple peptides, called wheat protein hydrolysates can expose antigenic sites that were buried in the proteins and this increases the risk for an IgE mediated allergic reaction to wheat (gluten intolerance is IgA and IgG antibody mediated). Theoretically, the luxury of having an extra food choice (hydrolyzed wheat) may increase the risk for IgE antibody mediated reactions to wheat (Hypothetically, it might even progress to anaphylactic reactions, in some).
A fifth concern, most of the gluten is removed in fully hydrolyzed wheat (8 ppm), however, there may be other antigenic proteins in wheat that may pose a problem and compromise health (ie. lectins, etc). Further research will help to reveal other problematic proteins in wheat and will help to clarify their effect on our health. As well, research will help to clarify if 8 ppm of gluten in the hydrolyzed wheat is enough to cause damage over a long period of time. Many patients still have intestinal immune related activity despite the maintenance of a gluten-free diet. This could be due to trace amounts of gluten in foods.
As with any new future option, it is important to consider the pros and cons carefully. More research is needed to fully review the pros and cons associated with consuming hydrolyzed wheat protein and help to review whether it’s safety is fact or fiction. For now, I’m happy to say that I’m symptom-free, eating gluten-free and paleolithic.
What concerns, suggestions, or information do you have to share or to inspire further discussion? Please leave a comment, I would love to hear your view:)
Hydrolyzed wheat hasn’t been proven to be safe for gluten intolerant people yet. More studies with large groups of gluten intolerant people over a long period of time need to be done to verify whether hydrolyzed wheat is safe. Currently, I believe it is safest to eat a strictly gluten-free diet with no hydrolyzed wheat:)
News Articles (While Reading These Articles, Keep In Mind That More Research Is Needed To Verify Whether Hydrolyzed Wheat Is Safe)
1. Luigi Greco, Marco Gobbetti, Renata Auricchio, Raffaella Di Mase, Francesca Landolfo, Francesco Paparo, Raffaella Di Cagno, Maria De Angelis, Carlo Giuseppe Rizzello, Angela Cassone, Gaetano Terrone, Laura Timpone, Martina D’Aniello, Maria Maglio, Riccardo Troncone, Salvatore Auricchio. Safety for Patients With Celiac Disease of Baked Goods Made of Wheat Flour Hydrolyzed During Food Processing. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. Volume 9, Issue 1 , Pages 24-29, January 2011.
2. Akiyama H, Sakata K, Yoshioka Y, et al. (2006). "Profile analysis and immunoglobulin E reactivity of wheat protein hydrolysates". Int. Arch. Allergy Immunol. 140 (1): 36–42.
3. Laurière M, Pecquet C, Bouchez-Mahiout I, et al. (2006). "Hydrolysed wheat proteins present in cosmetics can induce immediate hypersensitivities". Contact Derm. 54 (5): 283–9.
4. Nathan Gray. Fermented wheat flour may be safe for celiac patients, suggests study. www.foddnavigator.com
5. Study Finds That Celiac patients Can eat Hydrolyzed Wheat Flour. American Gastroenterological Association. Public release date: Jan. 19th, 2011.