WSJ recently published an article about gluten. Read it and come back here.
[Try not to have any conniptions when they refer abstaining from wheat and dairy as "restricted".]
Anyhow, what jumped out at me was:
In a novel study, researchers at the Mayo Clinic tested blood samples taken from 9,133 young Air Force recruits in the 1950s and found that about 1 in 700 had undiagnosed celiac disease at that time. Tests on subjects exactly the same age now found that the rate was nearly five times as high today.
"Human genes haven't changed that much, so there has to be something pervasive in the environment that is making this disease more common," says Joseph Murray, a Mayo gastroenterologist who led the study, published in the journal Gastroenterology last year. It may be that people are more susceptible because we are eating much more wheat today—or that wheat is being processed or cultivated differently.
I think there is something to this argument. Namely, environmental factors have changed.
My totally-shoot-from-the-hip guess is that modern wheat has been bred for higher gluten content and therefore gluten's malicious effects are likely amplified.
Is there any evidence for this? If this is the case, why would this be?
Also, anyone know if there were/are substantive differences between European/American wheat? I have an inkling there is/was.
For bonus fun: Anyone have any data on differences in wheat between now and antiquity?
Several things come to mind. First, the most obvious. It says right in the article, Americans eat more wheat now than they did in the past. More wheat equals more celiac. They probably answered their own question, at least in part.
Another potential issue:I read somewhere that in the recent past, like maybe one generation ago, yeast for making bread was all slow rise, which gave it more time to predigest the poisons in grains. So all the bread was probably more healthy than it is now, because it fermented for a LOT longer than it does now.
Another thing, the rest of our diet is much less healthy now. We have given up most saturated fat, which has been shown to be protective in a variety of ways. We have replaced it with PUFAs which has been shown to be just the opposite. And we are tanking up and tons of sugar and high fructose corn syrup (now called 'Corn syrup' if the manufacturers have their way). I suspect that if have a myriad of lifestyle changes that might further weaken general health and gut health, then you are more likely to develop leaky gut and celiac.
Our parents ate healthy real food. Many of them lived before tv dinners were invented. They ate meat and butter and lard and veggies and much less grains. Grain recipies back then had you soak the grains before cooking, cutting out much of the phytic acid and sometimes partially fermenting them which would have helped make them safer. Bread was made with slow rise yeast. Much less sugar was consumed making for different gut flora. High fructose corn syrup was not even yet on the map. Really, I don't see the reason for increased celiac rates as being any kind of mystery at all. Just about every change in diet from our parent's time has probably contributed to it.
Dr. Davis (Heartscan Blog) did a couple of blogs about modern wheat v. neolithic wheat. Apparently, the three original varieties of wheat available to Neolithic man, have become over 25,000 varieties over the past 30 years, thanks to hybridization and genetic tinkering.
Dr. Davis did a little experiment using Einkorn wheat, which is supposedly one of the earliest cultivated varieties, and found dramatically improved blood sugar responses.
One thing is for sure -- soil quality has decreased dramatically over the last 50 years or so. This affects wheat and everything else we grow. We should expect some repercussions.
"The concentrations of zinc, iron, copper and magnesium remained stable between 1845 and the mid 1960s, but since then have decreased significantly, which coincided with the introduction of semi-dwarf, high-yielding cultivars."
For the ground wheat (e.g. flour) to flow bromides are used -- these affect thyroid and autoimmunity.
To prevent pests, wheat and other grain crops are GMO (which has its own host of issues and toxicity) and pesticide-soaked.
Wheat flour is bleached -- again changing the food and oxidizing vitamins, minerals and organic components in horrible ways. Chlorine, peroxides and other nasties are employed. Again, reactive halides like chlorine will fill in for iodine which is necessary for thyroid, adrenals and many of our vitally functioning glands and detoxification systems. Yeah. Testes and ovaries INCLUDED! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flour_bleaching_agent
There are MANY factors why Western (and now Eastern) civilizations ruin their health on wheat grains...
Russia is now moving toward GMO wheat after their recent drought. Sad.
With respect to European vs. American wheat, a USDA scientist says there is little difference:
"The gluten content of flours is related to the amount of protein they contain. Because of growing conditions European wheats are often lower in protein when compared to North American wheats. However this is not always true. Also it is a common practice in Europe to add gluten to flour at the mill. Thus the protein and gluten content of flours is very similar on both sides of the Atlantic."
A recent paper (Van den Broek 2010) found higher gluten content in the wheat of today vs the wheat of 100 years ago. The paper is called "Presence of celiac disease epitopes in modern and old hexaploid wheat varieties: wheat breeding may have contributed to increased prevalence of celiac disease"
But I wonder how much of the increased celiac is due to wheat differences vs just wheat dominating the grain landscape these days.
This doctor's blog is interesting:
Did anyone catch this towards the end of the article?
"Fruits, vegetables and meat are naturally gluten-free, so experts advise loading up on those rather than relying on packaged products."
http://www.kew.org/science/ecbot/papers/nesbitt2001wheat.pdf Is the core of the review I am putting together, but it is a great historical read to start with!
I read somewhere that when humans first cultivated wheat there were only two strains. The same source said that during the 20th century scientists started trying to produce higher yield strains so now there are over 10,000 differing types. So they said you really never know what you're eating any more.
I can't come up with a link though... So take that with a grain of sea salt.