Celiac Diet

An enzyme added to foods containing gluten could put an end to the misery of celiac disease for many sufferers, allowing them to eat almost anything they fancy without having to worry about the effects on their digestive system.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine in which an abnormal reaction to the gluten protein in wheat, barley, and rye results in inflammation, which causes a temporary flattening of the nutrient absorbing villi that line the bowel. This prevents sufferers absorbing nutrients effectively from their diet. Until now, the only course of action is to avoid all foods containing gluten.

Now, Frits Koning, of Leiden University Medical Center, in The Netherlands, and colleagues at DSM Food Specialties, in Delft, have investigated the potential of a new enzyme obtained from the black microbial fungus Aspergillus niger developed originally for commercial food processing in making any food gluten free in the stomach. The enzyme, a prolyl endoprotease, breaks down whole gluten molecules as well as the peptides that stimulate the immune system’s T cells causing the symptoms of celiac disease.

The enzyme works optimally under the physiological conditions found in the human stomach, i.e. acidic pH and around 37 Celsius. Importantly, the enzyme works sixty times faster than a previously investigated enzyme and resists the protein-cracking action of pepsin found in the stomach.

“On the basis of our results, there now is a realistic chance that oral supplementation with an enzyme can ensure gluten degradation in the stomach before reaching the small intestine, where it causes problems for people with celiac disease,” explains Koning.

“An effective enzymatic treatment for celiac diseases requires a means of destroying all or at least the vast majority of gluten derived T cell stimulatory sequences,” the researchers explain. The new PEP was extracted from a fungus commonly used to make food grade citric acid and other products but will have to undergo extensive clinical trials in volunteers with celiac disease to determine how effective it will be in practice. The results could soon be implemented in finding a way to stop celiac symptoms, Koning told Reactive Reports, “Timescale is likely to be a few years,” he says, “It is our goal to make some kind of formulation that patients can take before of with their meal but this still has to be worked out.”

Research Blogging IconStepniak, D. (2006). Highly efficient gluten degradation with a newly identified prolyl endoprotease: implications for celiac disease AJP: Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology, 291 (4) DOI: 10.1152/ajpgi.00034.2006

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  1. Diet

    I feels proud to know that our scientists are still working for finding out the methods of processing the food without gluten content in it.

  2. Cox

    Great Article, My brother has suffered from celiac disease all his life and has found relief from enzymes and cutting out gluten. I feel for him when we have pizza because i see the fear in his eyes. I too am glad to see they are still working on a cure.

  3. Passing By

    “the black microbial fungus Aspergillus niger”

    I have celiac disease. The idea that I would take anything like this is scary to me. Some maybe would but not me. I happen to be one of those people sensitive to other foods like yeast (apart from autoimmune reaction to gluten). This fungus was in an enzyme supplement that I was taking and it was KNOCKING ME OUT. Then I read the label a little more carefully, and realized it is a FUNGUS. Because I cannot have yeast, it was making me very sick. So you couldn’t pay me to take this. Plus, many people may think they are okay, but are STILL doing damage to their body. Follow someone over their entire lifetime, and then get back to us celiacs. Some of us are NOT willing to be guinea pigs. I’ll just eat simple and be unafraid.

  4. Wahlers

    Excellent post. Many people seem to ignore the reality that there is simply no magic formula. You need to change your eating habits .

  5. AngelWings

    Let’s not wait for years to make a formula work. We can simply start out eating healthy foods and inflict self-discipline within ourselves. It is our choice. Let’s choose to be healthy!

  6. David Bradley

    It’s all very well saying “let’s choose to be healthy”, but how do you know what healthy eating is. The science is ever changing, foods that were considered healthy in the past are no longer seen that way, whereas others (e.g. eggs and avocadoes) that had a bad reputation are now considered almost magical. Why, just this week, research suggests that you can have “too much” good cholesterol and that an “obese” BMI doesn’t matter to the under-30s as long as they reduce it by the time they reach that age. Who’s to say that we won’t wake up in years to come to find that Woody Allen’s “Sleeper” has come true?

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