What do the latest results mean for people who believe they suffer from gluten intolerance? Our guest in the studio is Dr. Reiner Ullrich, a gastroenterologist at the Charité Hospital in Berlin
DW: Dr. Ullrich, what do you think of the latest research results - is it really a game changer?
Reiner Ullrich: I think it is definitely not a game changer for celiac disease because nobody doubts that gluten is the main factor in celiac disease. It may be a game changer - if it all comes true - that gluten sensitivity apart from celiac disease may be caused by these ATIs.
What does it mean for people who are intolerant to gluten if it is in fact true that ATIs are causing their problem and not gluten?
For the celiacs, nothing changes. For those with gluten sensitivity it would be an explanation for their symptoms, but the therapy would be the same. You have to avoid wheat and related grain.
ATIs and gluten are both proteins. What is the main difference between these two?
Gluten is a very important protein for wheat. It leads to the consistency of bread and nothing works without gluten. It is sticky and this is very important for baking and such. In contrast to this, the ATIs are just there to improve pest resistance, for example. And if we as consumers eat the food, we don't profit from the ATIs, and I think they should rather be reduced.
You are doing your own studies on gluten and it's problems for the human digestive tract. Can you tell us a little bit more about your studies?
We look at non-cyliacs who have irritable bowel syndrome which has a variety of gastro-intestinal symptoms for which we do not know the cause at present. We speculate that probably a part of these patients may profit from a gluten-free diet and may be gluten sensitive.
Are you seeing an increase in the number of people who are suffering from IBS, cyliac disease and intolerance to gluten?
There is definitely an increase in diagnosed cyliac disease which is related to much improved diagnostic methods. 15 years ago you had to get upper endoscopy and biopsy to diagnose cyliac disease. Now you can just draw a blood sample and look for antibodies. So this is much easier diagnosed and therefore many more people are diagnosed with this disease.
Is this why we are seeing an increase in gluten-intolerant products on the market?
I am not sure about that. I think a lot of this is just hype and you can sell anything if your write on it "It's free from whatever." Everybody thinks this must be healthier for me.