According to a new New Zealand study conducted on mice, gluten could cause inflammation in the brain. A reason to promote the gluten-free diet? The answer of Dr Arnaud Cocaul, nutritionist.
Is gluten really your enemy? While it has long been known that the protein can lead to an exaggerated immune reaction and inflammation of the inner lining of the intestine in some people, now it would also be likely to affect your brain. This is the conclusion of a study conducted in New Zealand which associated gluten with a low or high fat diet in mice.
Gluten and fatty diet, the association to avoid?
The researchers thus fed male mice either a low-fat diet with 10% fat, or a high-fat diet with 60% fat, with or without wheat gluten at 4.5% (the equivalent to an average normal human serving). With several observations:
- Gluten had no effect on body mass in male mice when added to a low-fat diet;
- However, mice fed a gluten-enriched high-fat diet increased in body mass and fat compared to those fed a gluten-free high-fat diet;
- The researchers observed that gluten added to the low-fat diet increased levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation;
- Whether added to the low-fat or high-fat diet, gluten caused a significant increase in the number of astrocytes and microglia in the hypothalamus.
However, astrocytes and microglia are two types of immune cells present in the brain in an area responsible for regulating metabolic functions that control weight and blood sugar. They are similar to macrophages, present in the blood, which play a role in inflammation.
For the University of Otago researchers, it is a possible hypothesis that gluten-induced hypothalamic inflammation can lead to brain damage, body weight gain and impaired blood sugar regulation.
Pro-inflammatory substances from the gut to the brain
For nutritionist Arnaud Cocaul, consulted by TipsForWomens, this study, although it sheds new light on gluten, is not really a surprise:
“We already know that gluten can in some people inflame the digestive tract. We also know that there is a gut-brain axis in the human body. If there is inflammation in the intestine, we can assume that there may be pro-inflammatory substances circulating on this axis and also appearing in the brain” he explains.
NO to diets, YES to WW!
For or against gluten in food?
But should we eliminate it from our diet? While protein is found in the composition of wheat, barley, rye and other widely consumed cereals that make up our daily lives?
“Oh no, definitely not!” reacts the doctor. “All eaters are unique individuals. In this context, why generalize instructions that may prevail in a patient more at risk and not in others? We must beware of all generalizations about gluten. Our diet must be based on a share of cereals.”
But the question opens another way according to him: “The question to ask is above all, what type of gluten are we dealing with? Ancestral gluten or modified gluten? While food in the past relied on many grains, hybrid grains were created to withstand harsh weather and feed large numbers. But this work on hybrid species is not without consequences for human health. This work is perhaps the first demonstration of it”.