I often hear people say that the reason that there more problems today with consumption of wheat products is because the gluten content has increased.
I always wondered where that argument came from. I am obviously no defender of wheat nor gluten, but I also don’t like attention diverted by issues that have no basis in truth.
So this paper written by a USDA scientist entitled Can an Increase in Celiac Disease Be Attributed to an Increase in the Gluten Content of Wheat as a Consequence of Wheat Breeding? I believe helps settle the issue. After surveying analyses of various wheats of the 20th century, he concludes:
“I have not found clear evidence of an increase in the gluten content of wheat in the United States during the 20th century, and if there has indeed been an increase in celiac disease during the latter half of the century, wheat breeding for higher gluten content does not seem to be the basis.”
Interestingly, analyses of emmer wheat (the 28-chromosome form of the Bible, for instance) demonstrates much higher gluten content than modern wheat.
The astounding list of problems we have with modern wheat is not due to an increase in gluten content. It is due to other changes, including:
–Altered structure of the gliadin proteins. The Glia-alpha9 sequence, for example, that is associated with triggering the changes of celiac disease in HLA DQ8/2-positive people, has been enriched in modern wheat, though nearly absent from the wheat of 1960 and earlier.
–Change in the structure of wheat germ agglutinin, the indigestible protein of wheat that exerts direct toxic effects on the small intestine and may block leptin, the hormone of satiety.
–Unique antigens (allergy- and immune-stimulating proteins) posed by new forms of alpha amylase inhibitors and other proteins.
Wheat consumption has been a problem for humans for 10,000 years. It’s been made much worse by the genetics changes introduced over the past 40 years . . . but it is not due to an increase in gluten.