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Panel offers facts about wheat

Published on January 9, 2013 3:01AM

Last changed on February 6, 2013 11:50AM

The National Wheat Improvement Committee hopes to dispel claims made by William Davis in "Wheat Belly." Here is an excerpt from their response:

Myth: The increase in celiac disease is due to wheat breeding.

Fact: It is true that celiac disease has increased in the past 50 years, as have other autoimmune diseases and the prevalence of allergies. The relationship between celiac disease and wheat was not clearly established until the late 1940s. There continues to be research aimed at determining why the incidence of celiac disease is increasing. The 2004 National Institutes of Health's Consensus Development Conference on Celiac Disease theorized that one cause could be the increasing use of serologic screening, leading to the diagnosis in milder cases. Other theories suggest that increases in celiac disease, as well as food allergies and sensitivities, are tied to the human environment. Gluten-free diets are only appropriate for individuals in a small subset of the population that suffers from celiac disease or has diagnosed gluten sensitivity.

Myth: Wheat causes obesity.

Fact: The composition of modern wheat is not the main cause of the overweight-obesity problem in humans. A combination of factors -- genetics, diet, life style, environment -- are all, in combination, what triggers weight gain.

Wheat is one component in the diverse diet of U.S. consumers. Per capita wheat consumption in the U.S. has declined in recent years, while obesity rates have increased. Wheat is consumed in 118 countries and the European Union. In many other countries with lower levels of obesity, wheat plays a larger role in the diet than in the U.S.

Myth: There is a new protein in wheat called gliadin.

Fact: Gliadins are not new. Gliadin is the name of a protein stored in the seed found in not only wheat, but other cereals like rye and barley. They have always been a component of wheat protein and were even present in ancient wheat and the wild species that gave rise to modern wheat. Wheat seed storage proteins are made up of about 100 different protein components. Gliadin was actually purified from wheat and described in a journal more than 100 years ago.


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