Researchers have found that a wheat protein called amylase-trypsin inhibitors (ATIs) could be linked to the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and other chronic health conditions, as well as non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
These findings were recently presented at the United European Gastroenterology Week 2016 in Vienna.
Many chronic health conditions are caused by dietary, lifestyle, and metabolic risk factors. Examples include IBD, an inflammatory condition of the colon and small intestine. Previous studies have shown a link between gluten, a mixture of proteins found in wheat and grains, and the recurrence of IBD symptoms.
In this study, researchers found that ATIs — which make up 4 percent or less of wheat proteins but can trigger powerful immune reactions in the gut — could also be responsible for triggering inflammation and causing other chronic conditions outside the digestive system, such as the lymph nodes, kidneys, spleen, and brain.
This protein can further aggravate symptoms of other inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, asthma, lupus, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
“As well as contributing to the development of bowel-related inflammatory conditions, we believe that ATIs can promote inflammation of other immune-related chronic conditions outside of the bowel,” lead researcher and Prof. Detlef Schuppan from Johannes Gutenberg University in Germany said in a press release.
“The type of gut inflammation seen in non-celiac gluten sensitivity differs from that caused by celiac disease, and we do not believe that this is triggered by gluten proteins,” Schuppan said. “Instead, we demonstrated that ATIs from wheat, that are also contaminating commercial gluten, activate specific types of immune cells in the gut and other tissues, thereby potentially worsening the symptoms of pre-existing inflammatory illnesses.”
Other data indicated that ATIs could also be associated with the development of non-celiac gluten sensitivity, a clinical state characterized by intestinal or extraintestinal symptoms induced by the ingestion of gluten, which usually goes away when gluten is eliminated from the diet.
Despite the link between gluten and symptom recurrences, studies suggested that gluten does not contribute to the development of the condition, so this needs to be clarified, Schuppan said.
“Rather than non-celiac gluten sensitivity, which implies that gluten solitarily causes the inflammation, a more precise name for the disease should be considered,” he said.
In the near future, the authors plan to start clinical studies to investigate the impact of ATIs on chronic health conditions. “We are hoping that this research can lead us toward being able to recommend an ATI-free diet to help treat a variety of potentially serious immunological disorders,” Schuppan said.