New Study Discovers Protein That May Be Key to Gluten Sensitivity

Dec 11, 2015 05:50 AM EST | By Juliano Dario

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A new study may have discovered the key piece in determining how to measure someone's Gluten Sensitivity.

As reported by NPR, Giovanni Barbara and his team of researchers from the University of Bologna in Italy have discovered that a protein called Zonulin may be the measuring stick of an individual's sensitivity to Gluten.

Barbara and his team measured blood levels of zonulin in four groups of individuals: those suffering from celiac disease, those who identified as gluten sensitive, those with irritable bowel syndrome marked by diarrhea, and healthy volunteers. 

After examining the blood of all four groups, they saw that zonulin levels from the celiac and gluten sensitive groups were nearly identical.

"Levels of zonulin in the blood have been shown to be high in celiacs already. In Barbara's study, levels in gluten-sensitive individuals almost matched those of celiacs. Though the results are preliminary, they point in a hopeful direction for future tests to help diagnose this controversial condition." Says the NPR report.

Though this early breakthrough is promising, Barbara says it's too soon to say anything definitve.

"We need more research to determine the clinical usefulness of these markers. ... Other laboratories need to reproduce our data, and we need to repeat our own experiment with gluten-sensitive patients who have been identified by strict criteria in double-blind studies." Was what she told NPR.

Dr. Umberto Volta another leading gluten researcher from the University of Bologna told Vox:

"This is an emerging condition mainly self-reported by people who claim an association between foods containing gluten and digestive symptoms." While some self-report an improvement in symptoms when they go gluten-free, this is usually "a result of a placebo effect unavoidably related to the elimination diet."

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