Category: Science

Research Spotlight: Type 1 Diabetes and Gluten

Gluten and the Microbiome

March 25, 2014

In humans, the relationship between type 1 diabetes and celiac disease is clear: having celiac disease dramatically increases risk for becoming a type 1 diabetic. But even beyond those with celiac disease, it has now been shown that early introduction of gluten-containing cereals in infancy is directly related to increased risk for type 1 diabetes.

The why and how of this relationship are still not perfectly clear. However, new research is focused on the role of dietary gluten in challenging the microbiome – the 100 trillion bacteria living within each of us – and how this paves the way for increased inflammation and autoimmunity, fundamental mechanisms in type 1 diabetes.

Interesting new research has shown how a gluten-free diet dramatically protects laboratory mice from becoming diabetic. Further, this same report reveals that the mechanism by which diabetes is instigated in mice consuming gluten has to do with changes in the bacteria residing in their intestines.

I appreciate that this report is advanced, but I want to share it as it is intriguing not only from the perspective of further implicating gluten as an instigator of autoimmunity, but also because it provides insight as to the role of the microbiome as a mediator of this process.

What this means is that, moving forward, we will be exploring what it means to adopt lifestyle changes to preserve a healthy population of intestinal bacteria. I believe this will, perhaps, offer the most powerful leverage point to reign in inflammation and autoimmunity. And how interesting it will be as we explore how gluten factors in to this equation.

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