Study under review: Randomised clinical study: Aspergillus niger-derived enzyme digests gluten in the stomach of healthy volunteers
Gluten is a type of protein found in wheat and related grains such as rye and barley, making up about 80% of their total protein content. Normally, proteins are digested in the stomach and upper small intestine (duodenum). However, gluten’s structure renders it highly resistant to most of our digestive enzymes, allowing fragments of the gluten protein to persist in the small intestine. More specifically, the gluten protein contains long stretches of proline and glutamine amino acids that require special enzymes to break apart, which humans do not possess. Interestingly, research has identified numerous microbes in both the mouth and colon that can degrade gluten.
It is estimated that at least 1% of the U.S. population suffers from celiac disease, an autoimmune condition characterized by the destruction of the small intestine in response to gluten. Immediate symptoms may include gastrointestinal (GI) distress, headaches, and muscle aches. And long-term gluten consumption can lead to malnutrition, weight loss, and possibly death. The only known treatment option is a lifelong gluten-free diet. However, many foods may contain hidden or unexpected sources of gluten, and food labels on products are not always present. Even items labelled “gluten-free” only need to be below a certain threshold, making them not truly gluten-free. And although non-celiac gluten sensitivity is a controversial diagnosis, research suggests that gluten may damage the guts of people who don’t have celiac disease (as explored in NERD issues #7 and #8).
There has been a recent interest in prolyl endopeptidases (PEP, shown in Figure 1), which are a type of enzyme capable of breaking down the proline-glutamine chains within gluten. While early research suggests that PEPs derived from bacteria don’t function well due to the stomach’s acidity, are rapidly broken down by our own digestive enzymes, and are unable to efficiently prevent the passage of gluten through the intestinal tract, there has been increasing interest of PEPs derived from alternative sources.
In this respect, the Aspergillus niger-derived PEP (AN-PEP) has shown promising cell culture results. Additionally, it has proved itself in a digestive model that closely mimics the human GI tract. Most recently, AN-PEP appeared to be well-tolerated in celiac disease patients consuming gluten daily for two weeks, but its efficiency compared to placebo could not be evaluated. The authors of the study under review sought to evaluate how efficiently AN-PEP breaks down gluten in the stomachs of healthy volunteers.
Gluten is a digestion-resistant protein found in wheat and related cereal grains that can cause extreme distress for people with celiac disease. This study evaluated how efficiently a type of enzyme called AN-PEP breaks down gluten in the stomachs of healthy volunteers.
Other Articles in Issue #11 (September 2015)
A shot to the gut
Alcohol intake and gut impacts have been researched before, but we still aren’t sure what exactly goes on after people drink. This study looked at what happens with gut bacterial products when people have multiple drinks at one sitting ... aka “binge drinking”.
Tea time means only tea for optimal EGCG absorption
Many people drink green tea for health, and some take green tea or EGCG supplements in an attempt to shed extra fat. While these topics have been researched at length, there hasn’t been as much research on timing. This study looks at EGCG absorption with and without food.
Can omega-3s prevent cognitive decline?
One of the most important issues with aging is decreased cognitive ability and eventually dementia. Since the brain has such high omega-3 content, many people supplement for prevention of these issues. This large, multi-year study put that practice to the test.
The study that didn’t end the low-fat/low-carb diet “wars”
A recent metabolic ward study set the low-carb world on fire, and produced many inaccurate media headlines disparaging low-carb diets. We cover the study and its implications, detail by detail.
- Interview: Dylan Dahlquist, MSc(c)
When is breakfast the most important meal of the day?
With an increasing amount of research pointing to benefits of intermittent fasting, breakfast has been shunned by more and more people. But for those with type 2 diabetes, blood sugar is a central issue, and breakfast may play a major role in regulating it.
What to Expect When We’re Expecting: Fetal Programming and the Development of Taste Preferences
. By Margaret Leitch, Ph.D.
Vitamin D(efense) against Crohn’s disease?
Immune benefits are often listed among the multitude of possible vitamin D effects. Most of the time, this is simplified to “defense against colds and flu”. But many conditions have an immune component — this particular study examines potential mechanisms by which vitamin D may help Crohn’s disease.
Green tea: a potential pain in the neck
Though it may not be as effective for fat loss as early studies suggested, green tea is still seen as extremely healthy. But animal evidence has pointed to possible thyroid side effects from excessive green tea consumption. How convincing is this evidence?