Gluten, after all, is well known for adversely affecting gut health, and in the case of celiac disease, destroying the absorptive surface of the intestine through a hallmark autoimmune triggered process. In many ways, gluten opens up a 'pandora's box' of autoimmunity by both triggering intestinal permeability – so-called 'leaky gut' – as well as providing over 23,000 unique, digestion resistant polypeptides which are capable of infiltrating the body causing systemic inflammation and the loss of immunological self-tolerance, i.e. the ability to distinguish self from non-self.
Adding to this increasingly dismal picture of what was once considered the ultimate poster child for 'healthy food,' a new study published in the PloS One may have uncovered a 'missing' link in understanding how wheat exerts its toxic effects.
Mayo Clinic researchers sought to elucidate the mechanism at play within the long observed link in both animal and human studies between dietary gluten and the pathogenesis of type 1 diabetes (T1D), focusing on the role of the gut microflora in mediating its diabetes promoting properties.
In the new study titled, "Low Incidence of Spontaneous Type 1 Diabetes in Non-Obese Diabetic Mice Raised on Gluten-Free Diets Is Associated with Changes in the Intestinal Microbiome",[ii] they sought to confirm "whether changes in the intestinal microbiome could be attributed to the pro- and anti-diabetogenic effects of gluten-containing and gluten-free diets, respectively." They noted recent research showing that intestinal microflora have a major influence on the incidence of T1D, and theorized that since "diet is known to shape the composition of the intestinal microbiome," they might find an important link by testing changes in the gut flora of animals fed either gluten or gluten-free diets.
The study design was described as follows:
"NOD [non-obese diabetic] mice were raised on gluten-containing chows (GCC) or gluten-free chows (GFC). The incidence of diabetes was determined by monitoring blood glucose levels biweekly using a glucometer. Intestinal microbiome composition was analyzed by sequencing 16S rRNA amplicons derived from fecal samples."The researchers observed the following results:
- "First of all, GCC-fed [gluten-containing chow fed] NOD mice had the expected high incidence of hyperglycemia [elevated blood sugar] whereas NOD mice fed with a GFC [gluten-free chows] had significantly reduced incidence of hyperglycemia.
- "Secondly, when the fecal microbiomes were compared, Bifidobacterium, Tannerella, and Barnesiella species were increased (p = 0.03, 0.02, and 0.02, respectively) in the microbiome of GCC [gluten-containing chow fed] mice, where as Akkermansia species was increased (p = 0.02) in the intestinal microbiomes of NOD [non-obese diabetic] mice fed GFC [gluten-free chows].
- "Thirdly, both of the gluten-free chows that were evaluated, either egg white based (EW-GFC) or casein based (C-GFC), significantly reduced the incidence of hyperglycemia."
- Diabetic symptoms returned
- Akkermansia species were reduced
- Bifidobacterium, Tannerella, and Barnesiella increased
The researchers concluded: "Our novel study thus suggests that dietary gluten could modulate the incidence of T1D [type 1 diabetes] by changing the gut microbiome."
This new study follows closely in the wake of another recent PloS study that found the alcohol soluble portion of gluten known as gliadin promotes weight gain and pancreatic beta cell hyperactivity – a potential contributor to type 2 diabetes (marked by excessive and/or elevated insulin) and a precursor to type 1 diabetes.
Given the increasingly dense body of research indicating wheat has diabetogenic properties the time has come to recognize that many of the most common ailments that afflict our species today are a direct result of the consumption of popular foods such as wheat, which are mistakenly believed to be safe and wholesome. To learn more about wheat's 200+ adverse health effects visit our Wheat and Gluten research section.
[i] GreenMedInfo.com, Wheat's Diabetogenic Properties
[ii] Eric V Marietta, Andres M Gomez, Carl Yeoman, Ashenafi Y Tilahun, Chad R Clark, David H Luckey, Joseph A Murray, Bryan A White, Yogish C Kudva, Govindarajan Rajagopalan. Low incidence of spontaneous type 1 diabetes in non-obese diabetic mice raised on gluten-free diets is associated with changes in the intestinal microbiome.