Ask the Experts: Why is Gluten Sensitivity So Common?

gluten sensitivity
Q. Why is gluten sensitivity so common?

One theory was that the sharp increase in diagnosis of gluten intolerance has occurred because of greater awareness and detection. However, this now seems unlikely as a study using frozen blood samples taken from Air Force recruits 50 years ago found that intolerance of wheat and gluten was four times more common today than it was in the 1950’s. It now seems likely that dramatic changes in our diets have played a role.

Many people eat grains daily because they are so abundant and cheap, especially wheat, the most common gluten grain that people have a problem with. This is because modern wheat is very different from the wheat our ancestors ate. Modern day strains of wheat have a much higher gluten content. The proportion of gluten protein in wheat has increased enormously as a result of genetic modification developed during the 1960s and 1970s.

Crossbreeding programs have changed the structure of wheat’s gluten proteins, providing a possible explanation for why the prevalence of coeliac disease and gluten intolerance has increased dramatically. While the classic plants grew over four feet tall, modern wheat (grown in 99 percent of the world’s wheat fields) is now derisively dubbed ‘dwarf wheat’, standing just two feet in height with an abnormally large seed head balanced on top of its stocky stem.These dramatic physical changes are paralleled by genetic shifts, the result of crossing wheat with non-wheat grasses and inducing genetic mutations through irradiation and exposure to toxins. (It should be noted that these processes are not the same as genetic engineering.)

Our Expert


maria bez
Maria is a registered nutritionist with the British Association of Nutritional Therapists. She has a BSC degree in Nutritional Medicine and practices from Nourish, her clinic in Bath. As well as attending to clients, she writes and speaks on all matters relating to nutrition and lifestyle. She is dedicated to providing individuals with information and advice to take control of their own health and well-being.

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