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Gluten Free: Is Wheat Toxic?

Even as more people claim that gluten is making them sick, a new study questions whether wheat is to blame.

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Gluten-free diets are all the rage these days, with a wide array of specialty products like gluten-free breads, cookies, and even beer. But a new study found that wheat may not be as evil as some believe.

Gluten is a protein that’s present in wheat, rye, and barley. In about 1 percent of the U.S. population, even a small amount of gluten can damage the lining of the small intestine—a condition that’s called celiac disease.

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A larger number of people may suffer from gluten sensitivity without having full-blown celiac disease. Reported symptoms include mood swings, headaches, fatigue, and diarrhea. However, there are no good tests for this, and some doctors question whether the condition even exists.

Over the past 20 years, though, celiac disease has increased, which has led some people to blame gluten-filled wheat for this rise. But a new study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, found that the gluten content of wheat hasn’t changed much in the past century.

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So if the amount of gluten in wheat isn’t increasing, what’s going on? Scientists have many ideas, but more research is needed.

In the meantime, if you think eating wheat is bothering you talk to your doctor before you start shelling out big bucks for a gluten-free beer.

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