Increase in celiac disease can’t be traced to higher gluten content in wheat

By Jason Clevenger

Summary: A report published by Donald Kasarda, a researcher with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, investigated the claim that an increase in celiac disease is related to higher gluten content in modern wheat. There’s been a suggestion that protein, mainly gluten, has been rising as a result of wheat breeding. Kasarda reviewed published protein measurements available from the early 1900s. His report concluded there is no evidence of a trend in increased protein content over that time period for the winter or spring wheat varieties traditionally used for baking. Kasarda also reviewed data for U.S. wheat flour use per capita, which suggests the current per capita wheat consumption is similar to 1950 levels and approximately half of what it was in 1900.

Conclusion: There is no clear evidence that protein levels of wheat have increased over the past hundred years based on this analysis. Kasarda says the increased use of vital gluten, a concentrated form added to some baked goods, may play a role in the increased incidence of celiac disease. Other potential factors include soil management and crop production practices and the type of wheat products consumed.


[1] “Can an Increase in Celiac Disease Be Attributed to an Increase in the Gluten Content of Wheat as a Consequence of Wheat Breeding?”, Kasarda DD, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2013 Jan 31[Epub ahead of print].

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