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Sensitive to Gluten? The Gluten Epidemic

Hybridized Dwarf Wheat and the Gluten Epidemic

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In 1970, Norman Borlaug, who is known as the father of the green revolution won the Noble Peace Prize for helping increase the world’s food supply and advancing techniques in biotechnology while at the International Wheat and Maize Improvement Center (IWMIC) outside Mexico City.  What isn’t known by many people,  is the hybridized wheat (triticum aestivum) Dr Borlaug invented through genetic processing techniques such as backcrossing, contains the D genome, which overproduces the a-gliadin protein that damages the villi of the small intestine in gluten sensitive individuals.  Over 99% of the world’s wheat is the 42 chromosome triticum aestivum dwarf wheat.  With its ability to reach maturity faster than older species of wheat, such as Einkorn, and support more coatless seeds without buckling, dwarf wheat appears for all practical intents and purposes to be the ideal food crop for modernity.  Norman Borlaug theorized that his dwarf wheat would end world hunger and prevent deforestation by bearing more seed grain on a sturdier stalk. This increases its overall surface area, and thus requiring less farmland.  Plus triticum aestivum’s dwarfish stalk requires a shorter growing season, reaching maturity much faster than ancient Einkorn wheat.  What geneticists failed to take into consideration is that wheat contains cumulative genes on their chromosomes which express more gluten and anti-nutritive secondary metabolites such as phytic acid.  All species have some form of innate defense mechanism whether physical or chemical, that protects them from predation.  Genetically backcrossing certain species like wheat magnifies each of the adaptive and anti-nutritive phytochemicals, contributing to auto-immune disorders like celiac disease.  Phytic acid (IP6) is the principle storage form of phosphorus and chelates (binds) minerals such as zinc and iron, interrupting normal mineral absorption.  It’s important to note that minerals ab-sorb meaning are body’s don’t actively pick them up but hope they diffuse into the intestinal walls.  Norman Borlaug’s intention was to create dwarf wheat, so it could withstand draught, pestilence and barren soil no matter where it was sown.  Coded by the D genome, gliadin and other proteins found in dwarf wheat are being investigated for their role in increasing brain inflammation, especially in the cerebellar purkinje neurons which control coordination, precision and timing in bodily movements.  Purkinje neurons are part of the cerebellum and if you want to execute a perfect tennis swing like Arthur Ashe or perform a split second mid-air, feign-lay-up like Michael Jordan, you’ll need optimal cerebellar coordination to pull it off.  Neuroscientist have discovered that purkinje cells are unable to regenerate like other nerve cells and are currently investigating whether certain conditions like cerebellar ataxia and gluten encephalopathy are caused by the consumption of wheat containing products.  Cerebellar ataxia is a debilitating condition which interrupts normal fine-tuned motor movements.  One of the funniest scenes from the movie Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is when Johnny Depp playing the eccentric gonzo journalist Hunter S Thompson, stumbles toward the Bazooko Circus Casino entrance after inhaling raw ether.  Johnny Depp narrates the scene, describing his erratic inability to seize control of his limbs as “becoming the village drunkard in some early Irish novel.”  This scene fast forwards the gradual atrophy of the cerebellum, and why age related falls in elderly people is correlated with cerebellum deterioration. 

Ancient wheat grains like the yellow pigmented Einkorn (German for single grain) species have 14 chromosomes and code for the A genome which produces less gluten and different varieties of protein.  A breakdown of the two gluten proteins gliadin to glutenin in Triticum aestivum (modern wheat) is 8:1 and in Triticum Monococcum (Einkorn single grain) 1:1. Older grain species like Einkorn (Triticum monococcum) are genetically simpler and hardier than the new wheat hybrids which are dependent upon human intervention requiring organophosphate insecticides and nitrogen fertilizers for development.  Modern wheat (triticum aestivum) contains the A, B, D genome and is geared for market forces, producing uniform yields that help Wall Street gauge commodity prices.  Plus triticum aestivum tastes better, offering bakers and chefs better dough rising capability than the gritty, crumbly Einkorn wheat.  Dwarf wheat is 70% carbohydrate and 15% protein and indigestible fiber. Einkorn has a superior nutrient profile containing more protein, (1:1 ratio gliadin to glutenin) essential fatty acids, phosphorus, potassium, Vitamin B-6, lutein and beat-carotene.  Nutritionally, wheat contains the starch amylopectin A, which is rapidly broken down by the enzyme amylase in the digestive system into its simplest form glucose where it’s sent into the bloodstream triggering the release of insulin.  Insulin is a storage hormone that clears the blood of glucose by either restoring glycogen levels in lean tissue or depositing excess energy in fat cells for future use.  Last, wheat gluten proteins like gliadin reduce the amount of intestinal Goblet Cells which are involved in delivering antigens to tolerogenic (tolerant) immune cells, preventing autoimmune responses and thus maintaining homeostasis in the small intestine.  It’s this reduction in intestinal Goblet cells that causes unnecessary immunoreactivite conditions like celiac disease.  

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