Danger, Danger: “Hydrolyzed Wheat” Study Conclusions Premature

Recently, Twitter has been a-flutter with a news articles about the supposed safety of Hydrolyzed Wheat Flour in baked goods for CD patients. There are some severe holes in this study, as well as some severe concerns I reserve.

I first read a summary of the article on GlutenFreeVille which is very similar to an abstract on Celiac Facts. A more in-depth article can be found at Science Daily. The most detailed is the latter article, which Celiac Facts actually just reprints the first paragraph and then links to the Science Daily article.

While people are hoping for a holy grail for Celiac Disease, I reserve some strong concerns both about this study and the long-term effects. Each of the above articles are actually summaries of the real report. Two of the three of those summaries have taken liberties and interpretation with the article stating “Celiac Patients can eat Hydrolyzed Wheat Flour, study finds.” Science Daily reports “Baked goods made from hydrolyzed wheat flour are not toxic to celiac disease patients, according to a new study in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology…” The article starts off misleading us into thinking these are safe, end of story. The rest of the article discusses the study in which there were only 16 participants, with only five who actually received the hydrolyzed wheat products being tested.

Still, it is a major logical flaw to conclude that because five people did not show symptoms after 60 days of eating a specific amount of this product (200 g) that “Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein is SAFE for Celiac Patients.” We are talking millions of people with various degrees of CD, not five who were in near perfect health before the study. However, I will admit that 200 grams of product is actually a large amount. It’s almost 6 waffles (my brand is Nature’s Path GF @210 g for 6) or 2/3 package of Glutino sandwich cookies). So, at least they used decent amounts for the test.

Gluten FreeVille took a more conservative approach, changed the title to “Study suggests Celiac Patients can Safely Eat Hydrolyzed Wheat Flour. She also added a disclaimer, which I think Celiac Facts should have done as well,

Note: I neither advocate consuming any kind of wheat products on a gluten-free diet, nor am commenting on the viability or conclusions of this small study. I am simply reporting the findings of the study for your information. ~nancy

Still, if you read the entire article on Science Daily, there is an important part in the report that most people have missed:

“Prolonged trials have to be planned to underscore the safety of baked goods made by applying the rediscovered and adapted biotechnology of hydrolysis.

Although Science Daily does not discuss whether blood tests were taken to determine if antibodies might be present, even without symptoms in the five patients, the abstract on the clinical study itself Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, does confirm both blood and mucosal samples were monitored.

Two of the 6 patients who consumed NFBG discontinued the challenge because of symptoms; all had increased levels of anti–tissue transglutaminase (tTG) antibodies and small bowel deterioration. The 2 patients who ate the S1BG goods had no clinical complaints but developed subtotal atrophy. The 5 patients who ate the S2BG had no clinical complaints; their levels of anti-tTG antibodies did not increase, and their Marsh grades of small intestinal mucosa did not change.

Although this information does give a bit more hope in the product, I still have reservations with this study and the conclusions being drawn so quickly. Another issue is that they took the IgA-tTG levels, but at least in the abstract, did not monitor Total IgA, & IgA-EMA. Any further information has to be purchased for the full article.

At the same time this article is flooding the Gluten Free community, there are also several studies coming out about Thyroid and Celiac, Iron and Nutritional Deficiencies and Celiac, Infertility and Celiac Disease. Many of these end up often not causing the intestinal pain that standard celiac does, but in fact, deficiencies, miscarriages, and the body to attack other areas of itself, such as the thyroid. (The Thyroid Book). There are also more links gluten to depression. Check out Celiac Central and related diseases for more information.

The bottom line is that with only two months of study, we have no evidence on long-term safety, nor do we know if these products could cause some of these related diseases to recur or occur. Other blood levels should be considered, especially the thyroid, vitamin D, Iron & other vitamin and mineral levels throughout a year on the product? Also should be monitored whether the study participants develop any autoimmune type issues other than celiac? How about depression, have they developed any non-specific depression issues, anxiety issues, mental fog they previously did not have?

Many of us have learned the hard way that one can still react to something without full-blown symptoms, and that is my biggest concern with this product and limited study. After about six months of no longer ingesting Gluten, I suddenly started to have some fibromylgia symptoms, acne, depression etc. come back. It had all disappeared after going gluten-free. One night, I was giving my son a bath. He has fairly severe skin problems and we use a shower filter to filter out chlorine which helps. Without thinking, I put some of my gentle body wash in the water for bubbles (a rare treat) I watched him break out immediately. His skin had been fine until he came in contact with it. The ingredients list included “hydrolyzed wheat protein.” Over time, I also started to notice that the days my symptoms were the worse, were the days I used Body wash and conditioner with “hydrolyzed wheat protein.”

Once I removed shampoos, lotions, face creams, conditioners, and soap all with “hydrolyzed wheat protein” I felt better again for almost a year. Then I again started to have symptoms, this time including severe anemia, Vitamin D deficient despite taking high amounts of Vit D, etc. It was actually after trying a new lipstick color with my normal makeup line and developing a severe migraine that I started looking into my makeup. I found wheat proteins in the form of “hydrolyzed wheat protein” and various forms of “proline” (usually extracted from what protein) in my makeup, as well as oat in our latest body wash. (I admit, I forget about Oat sometimes).

It took longer for these processed and altered forms of wheat proteins, as well as cross-contaminated oat, to wreck enough havoc on my system to cause me to become ill again, but the bottom line is that it did. The oat wash also brought my son’s skin problems back with a vengeance that took almost 9 months to finally clear up.

Our skin is our largest organ and does “ingest” things, contrary to some belief. That’s why there are things such as transdermal patches now. If our skin didn’t ingest, how would that nicotine or pain patch work? When it comes to lipstick, well, we ingest it. Even if we aren’t lip lickers, we ingest it when we eat. Although It took me a while to develop symptoms though the skin, the bottom line is that I did and these things didn’t pass into my digestive tract (except my lipstick). I did finally get to the point where I developed migraines and stomach aches with a new lipstick. Even without ingesting shampoos and makeup, it was getting into my body and I became ill again. It looked different. I didn’t get the migraines, etc, and it took longer, but it did happen.

Before we as a gluten-free community should even consider purchasing products if they come out, we need to somehow demand and wait until they’ve tested this product for at least two years and monitor the entire health of the person, including full blood panels, full Celiac disease blood panel not just the “anti–tissue transglutaminase (tTG) antibodies” and small bowel deterioration, and the mental health of the subjects.

It’s taken me almost 20 years to figure this out and I’m still in the recovery stage. It took me almost a year to get my iron levels up and I still have several “leaky gut” symptoms that need healing. If hydrolyzed wheat protein causes me to be ill through my skin, I’m extremely concerned about the true safety of the product down the line. While I do admit there could be a difference between “hydrolyzed wheat protein” and “hydrolyzed wheat flour products” I want to see a lot more long term, very detailed studies on this with at least 1% of the celiac population though would prefer a 10%. Then again, if most of you are like me, I won’t be one of those to be part of that study. I’ll keep my gluten-free life; I’ve become accustomed to it and most the time appreciate it (except when I am trying to figure out the changed names in medicine and cosmetics, but that’s another post).

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3 thoughts on “Danger, Danger: “Hydrolyzed Wheat” Study Conclusions Premature

  1. Thanks for the great analysis. My goal when I post a study is provide information on the study as news, but NOT analyze it if I have no direct experience. I wouldn’t have even posted the study on Gluten Freeville were it not appearing all over the place first- thus by default making it newsworthy. I was thinking my disclaimer showed my disagreement with the conclusions and methods, but I am not a scientist or a doctor, so I try to refrain from commenting from the point of view of one. Since you have direct experience, your analysis is relevant, and yes, I totally agree with you: please don’t eat or use any kind of wheat product if you need to be gluten free!! Nancy (Gluten Freeville)

  2. I agree with this point of view wholeheartedly. I’m a natural skeptic of things like this, and I don’t plan on being a guinea pig for this study either…..will wait a few more years until there are some definite conclusions. Enjoyed your analysis, though….thanks!

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