Type 1 Diabetes Linked To Immune Response To Wheat
Many people in the low carb community welcome this kind of finding in that it reinforces the "carbs are evil and bread is the evilest of carbs" thinking that often permeates that community.
But before we blame wheat for causing Type 1 diabetes it is worth looking a little deeper. The fact is humans living in temperate climates in the Northern Hemisphere have been eating wheat-based diets for some five thousand years. But the sudden explosion of Type 1 diagnoses is about 30 years old.
Back in my wheat-saturated childhood in the 1950s Type 1 was extremely rare. I did not meet a single person who had it until I was 23 years old and I interacted with literally thousands of young people during that time period. There was no one with Type 1 in my college dorm. There was no one with Type 1 at work.
Epidemiological studies back up this anecdotal finding. The rate of development of Type 1 in children appears to have taken an upward turn in the 1970s then it really got going.
This study sheds some interesting light on why.
The Rising Incidence of Type 1 Diabetes Is Accounted for by Cases With Lower-Risk Human Leukocyte Antigen Genotypes Spiros Fourlanos, et al. Diabetes Care. 2008 August; 31(8): 1546–1549. doi: 10.2337/dc08-0239.
After explaining that "...the incidence of childhood-onset type 1 diabetes in Australia has doubled in the last 20 years, from 11.3 cases per 100,000 person-years in 1985 to 23.2 in 2002." It concludes
"The rising incidence and decreasing age at diagnosis of type 1 diabetes is accounted for by the impact of environment on children with lower-risk HLA class II genes, who previously would not have developed type 1 diabetes in childhood.In short, something is happening now so that a large group of children with what used to be diabetes-related genes that occasionally caused Type 1, but not all that often, are now getting Type 1, children (and adults, too) who would not have developed it pre-1980.
The researchers attribute this to an environmental cause and suggests a few very unconvincing suggestions as what this environmental cause might be including increased exposure to rotavirus among babies in hospital nurseries.
The gluten/Type 1 wheat/Type 1 link should, if anyone was paying attention, have got some bright red signals flashing as to what the real environmental change producing this rise in Type 1 might be. The obvious question to ask is this. What is new in our environment since the late 1970s. Is it wheat?
No. Of course not. But what is new might be something that changes the way our bodies digest wheat, in particular, something that changes gut permeability so that the wheat proteins that for millennia made their way through the gut without getting into the blood stream where they could provoke antibody attack suddenly started leaking into the gut.
And when you ask what change in our food supply happened since the late 1970s that had the ability to change gut permeability you find one huge possibility: Soy.
No one ate Soy in the 1950s except when they went to a Chinese restaurant. Even then, they avoided bizarrely exotic foods like tofu and black beans in favor of bland dishes flavored with a bit of salty American-made soy sauce.
But in the 1970s this changed dramatically. Soy began to be used as a protein extender in fast foods and packaged foods to the point where it is now virtually impossible to find a packaged food that does not have soy in it somewhere.
The public was sold the line that soy was health food--based on claims that were never substantiated, and many of which were proven false.
What the public does not know, and I learned only from reading Kaayla Daniel's book, The Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side of America's Favorite Health Food is that soy contains compounds called "saponins" which, as their name suggests, have a soapy quality. As you can read on page 240 of Daniel's book, Soy saponins damage gut mucosa and have been found in numerous studies to change the permeability of the gut. Since these studies were not funded by the huge food processors who inundate us with soy, you have never heard about them. You have now.
Any of you who have more than a passing interest in how the foods we eat affect our bodies owe it to yourselves to read the Daniel book. There is something eye-opening on every page, and Dr. Daniel documents each of her claims with rigorous citations to peer reviewed research.
Here is just one research study backing up the finding about the relationship of soy saponins to gut damage. There are many more.
Influence of Saponins on Gut Permeability and Active Nutrient Transport In Vitro. I. T. JOHNSON, et al. The Journal of Nutrition 116: 2270-2277, 1986.
Here is an interesting page from a book about saponins describing how soy saponins and lectins combine to damage the gut:
Plant lectins. By A. Pusztai p. 159-160.
If you have an inherited genetic tendency to autoimmune disease, and wish to preserve yourself and your children from developing autoimmune diabetes, this latest news about wheat might impell you to do two things.
1. Completely eliminate wheat and gluten from your diet.
2. Completely eliminate soy from your diet.
Because it is most likely the leakiness of the gut that allows large proteins into the bloodstream where they provoke immune attack, my guess is that eliminating wheat will merely allow some other large protein into your blood which will provoke immune attack. Perhaps, since there is something about wheat that seems to provoke attack on the insulin-producing beta cells, eliminating wheat might lower your risk of diabetes. But who knows what cells other proteins leaking through might resemble? Avoiding diabetes by upping your chances of developing Rheumatoid Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, or Lupus, it not a course I would recommend.
Instead, concentrate on keeping your gut membranes doing the job they were hired to do. Don't eat foods that will harm the cells on the barrier membranes that keep your food proteins where they were intended to go. In short, don't eat soy.