Adverse Effects of Wheat Gluten

Ann Nutr Metab. 2015;67 Suppl 2:8-14. doi: 10.1159/000440989. Epub 2015 Nov 26.


Man began to consume cereals approximately 10,000 years ago when hunter-gatherers settled in the fertile golden crescent in the Middle East. Gluten has been an integral part of the Western type of diet ever since, and wheat consumption is also common in the Middle East, parts of India and China as well as Australia and Africa. In fact, the food supply in the world heavily depends on the availability of cereal-based food products, with wheat being one of the largest crops in the world. Part of this is due to the unique properties of wheat gluten, which has a high nutritional value and is crucial for the preparation of high-quality dough. In the last 10 years, however, wheat and gluten have received much negative attention. Many believe that it is inherently bad for our health and try to avoid consumption of gluten-containing cereals; a gluten-low lifestyle so to speak. This is fueled by a series of popular publications like Wheat Belly; Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health. However, in reality, there is only one condition where gluten is definitively the culprit: celiac disease (CD), affecting approximately 1% of the population in the Western world. Here, I describe the complexity of the cereals from which gluten is derived, the special properties of gluten which make it so widely used in the food industry, the basis for its toxicity in CD patients and the potential for the development of safe gluten and alternatives to the gluten-free diet.

MeSH terms

  • Avena / chemistry
  • Celiac Disease / diet therapy
  • Celiac Disease / etiology*
  • Diet, Gluten-Free / methods
  • Diet, Western / adverse effects
  • Edible Grain / adverse effects
  • Edible Grain / chemistry
  • Glutens / adverse effects*
  • Glutens / immunology
  • Hordeum / adverse effects
  • Hordeum / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Nutritive Value
  • Secale / adverse effects
  • Secale / chemistry
  • Triticum / adverse effects*
  • Triticum / chemistry


  • Glutens