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Jane Anderson

Ancient Wheat Strains Appear Toxic for Celiacs, Researchers Find

By March 11, 2013

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Ancient strains of wheat, including Kamut and Graziella Ra, had toxic effects on small intestinal tissue taken from people with celiac disease, indicating that these wheat strains are not safe for celiacs to consume, a new study shows.

Some people with celiac and with non-celiac gluten sensitivity have reported that they can eat ancient forms of wheat without reacting, so scientists at London's St. Thomas' Hospital and the Universitą di Urbino in Italy decided to test whether the strains truly are safe. The researchers included four types of ancient wheat plus three modern varieties.

To determine if the wheat types caused damage to the small intestine, they then collected small intestinal cells from 13 volunteer biopsy-proven celiacs, prepared the cells, and added samples of the different wheat varieties. Every wheat strain provoked an immune system response, but some people cells reacted more vigorously to some strains than others, the researchers found.

The findings highlight the fact that different people react to different strains of wheat in different ways, the study said. That makes it critical for researchers to test various types of wheat with cells from many celiacs, since reaction strengths vary significantly.

Nonetheless, the study concluded that no form of wheat -- ancient or modern -- is safe for someone with celiac disease. "Our results underline strongly the need for all cereals from the tribe Triticeae to be considered coeliac-toxic," the researchers said.

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