What is The Gluten Summit?

Dr Tom O’Bryan from theDr.com has generously gathered a group of medical professionals at the forefront of research into gluten related health issues, nutrition and healthy living to bring us a series of interviews on the topic of 'gluten'. The goal of the summit is to bring recognition of gluten-related disorders forward by five years. The summit is taking place online from 11-17 November 2013.

The wrap up from day 1 of The Gluten Summit

Here it is... Now, it must be said, that it was a long afternoon listening to these interviews. Day 1 consisted of 4 interviews which on average were about an hour long. They were entirely jam packed with information, interesting and fascinating facts about how gluten affects the body. Unfortunately, (for the non-medical listeners!) they were also often packed with medical terminology, so, our brains are a little tired! For this reason we have chosen to relay, in more common language, the most interesting points that came out of the four interviews and further down some very thought provoking quotes. If you have any questions please comment below and we will do our best to answer them.

Oh and before we get into it. Yes, Dr. Michael Marsh did say that he lets his coeliac patients drink English ales and seeing as there is no research to say that this is okay, we are going to suggest you probably should definitely NOT drink normal beer!

The interviewees and their topics

  • Dr. Michael Marsh: Why the early stages of coeliac disease should be taken seriously.
  • Dr. Mark Houston: How sensitivity to gluten can impact your heart and cardiovascular system.
  • Cynthia Krupper, Registered Dietitian: After the diagnosis: supporting you with making sense of labels, dining out with confidence and transitioning smoothly to a gluten-free diet.
  • Dr. David Perlmutter: Eliminating gluten as the first step in preventing brain conditions.

The most interesting points to take away

  1. Dr. Michael Marsh published a ground breaking paper in 1992 documenting the classification of degeneration of the villi in coeliac disease. This classification is the measurement system which all coeliac biopsies are measured with. It starts at Marsh 0 and goes through to Marsh III.
  2. The diagnosis of coeliac disease requires total villious atrophy (Marsh III lesion). Dr. Marsh would like to see it being picked up at a much earlier stage but testing isn’t there yet, a more detailed account of the mucosal changes and immunology is required of stages 0, I and II to better understand diagnosis.
  3. Gluten is a proline, an amino acid that twists the molecule, and humans have not yet evolved enzymes that can break it down (it is an indigestible protein). This is thought to be because wheat is a relatively new food for human beings when compared to something like rice, which has been around for a long time.
  4. Some coeliac children have issues integrating socially and coeliacs diagnosed as children have a 46% increased risk of suicide. Children need to know they aren’t alone with their dietary requirements, they need to feel confident that they can make their own food choices. It is important parents address this with them early in life.
  5. Cardiovascular disease starts much earlier than we might think, in some cases in the womb. Environment and genetics play a role in progression. There is a 30% incidence of subclinical coronary heart disease that can be detected in teenage years. These studies were originally based on young (approximately 20-30 year old) men who died at war but the age for evident damage has moved forward 10 years.
  6. The two predominant factors of cardiovascular disease are poor nutrition and lack of proper exercise. It is suggested that to improve these two factors alone could see the risk for all diseases in the US decrease by 70%.
  7. Idiopathic cardiomyopathy (swelling of the heart) has been linked to gluten ingestion in the gluten sensitive.
  8. People are afraid of high fat diets because of the connotations with heart disease when really it is the other way around. Take, for example, a 2008 weight loss study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Over two years it compared the Low Carb, Mediterranean and Low Fat diets using 322 moderately obese adults with an average age of 52 years. The findings were this;
    • Those on the low carb diet (which is also high in good fat) experienced the greatest weight loss.
    • Their HDL (good) cholesterol increased.
    • Their LDL (bad) cholesterol reduced.
    • Their fasting insulin levels were better.
    • And their C-reactive protein went down (this is measured via a blood test and is the marker of inflammation in our bodies) i.e. inflammation in the body was reduced.
  9. Inflammation in the human body and specifically the brain is fundamental, there is a direct relationship between blood sugar elevation and Alzheimer’s. When your blood sugar is even mildly elevated it binds to proteins. Dramatically increasing the production of free radicals which destroy everything in sight, this in turn increases inflammation which is devastating for the human brain.
  10. Dr Perlmutter wants to make the box bigger when it comes to diagnosing health issues. He believes that inflammation is at the base of many health issues and that by understanding what causes this, namely gluten sensitivity, he may be able to advance medicine and help the many people out there who are sick and don’t know why.
  11. Gluten sensitive individuals may cross react with other types of proteins. Gluten increases zonulin production which in turn increases intestinal permeability. This means that more proteins can travel through the gut wall and challenge the immune system exposing more sensitivities in those already sensitive to gluten.

Some interesting quotes from the interviews

  1. “Gluten free diets are not bad for you, bad gluten free diets are bad for you” - Dr Tom O’Bryan.
  2. “Have confidence in the degree of research that is going on around the world” - Dr. Marsh believes there is hope that the diagnostic process will get less invasive.
  3. “Blood vessels have an infinite number of insults, but only three finite responses to the insults. And, the three finite responses are inflammation, oxidative stress, and vascular autoimmune dysfunction.” - Dr. Houston
  4. "Fat is fundamental as an energy source and a structural component of the membranes of the nerve cells. Healthy cells require healthful fats." - Dr Perlmutter
  5. "Gluten could be a vast insight into a great many diseases and address the underlying problem rather than pulling out the prescription pad to treat the symptoms." - Dr. Perlmutter suggesting we should be finding out what is causing the issue in the first place.
  6. “Gluten is not a protein we are designed to accept.” - Dr Perlmutter

Check out our re-caps from the other days of The Gluten Summit