There are three distinct pathologies, says Brigitte Jolivet, president of an association that has been campaigning since 1989 to make life easier for gluten intolerant people. True gluten intolerants, for whom it is vital to exclude gluten, are victims of the celiac disease. This condition destroys the lining of the small intestine and causes anemia, diarrhea, weight loss, and bone pain, among other conditions. There is no treatment for this condition, except for the gluten-free diet. So, 1% of the population is estimated to be affected.
As much as celiac disease responds to a precise diagnosis, on the basis of a blood test and confirmed by endoscopy of the duodenum, hypersensitivity is as difficult to identify.
“We’re not sure if gluten is responsible,” says Corinne Bouteloup, a gastroenterologist at Clermont-Ferrand University Hospital, who will conduct a clinical study as part of the GlutN research project.
“We’re going to study things from the plant to the plate,” explains Catherine Ravel, who coordinates the project. “The idea is to offer people with sensitivities a product they would tolerate,” she added.
Is A Gluten-Free Diet Healthy Or Not?
At Clermont-Ferrand University Hospital, Corinne Bouteloup will submit about sixty patients (excluding intolerant and allergic patients) to a double-blind diet with or without gluten, controlling their reaction. “The goal is to find biomarkers because, for the time being, doctors are rather bothered to make a diagnosis because of a lack of tools,” says Catherine Grand-Ravel.
Blood, urine and stool tests should make it possible to establish the famous markers to diagnose gluten sensitivity. The clinical study, funded by the National Research Agency in France, will be launched in early 2019 with initial results expected at the end of the year. According to Corinne Bouteloup, “overall, we don’t eat more gluten today, because we eat much less bread, but the quality of gluten has changed.”
“Our grandparents ate real bread and not industrial bread, pizzas, ready meals, deli meats. A bunch of products with gluten added,” says Corinne Bouteloup. “However, vital gluten is very concentrated so that it may be more resistant to digestion. If we can show that it is indeed a problem of gluten quality and addition, perhaps we could change practices,” she added.