Commercially available glutenases: a potential hazard in coeliac disease

Therap Adv Gastroenterol. 2017 Jun;10(6):473-481. doi: 10.1177/1756283X17690991. Epub 2017 Apr 2.


Background: The only treatment for celiac disease (CD) is a gluten-free diet (GFD). However, there is interest among patients in a medical therapy to replace or help with a GFD. Therapies include gluten-degrading enzymes (glutenases). There are glutenases available marketed as dietary supplements that have not been demonstrated to digest the toxic epitopes of gluten.

Methods: We investigated the contents, claims, and disclaimers of glutenase products and assessed patient interest using Google AdWords to obtain Google search frequencies.

Results: Among 14 glutenase product, all contained proteases, eight contained X-prolyl exopeptidase dipeptidyl peptidase IV, two did not state the protease contents, and eight failed to specify the name or origin of all proteases. Eleven contained carbohydrases and lipases and three probiotics. One declared wheat and milk as allergens, two contained herbal products (type not stated) and one Carica papaya. Thirteen claimed to degrade immunogenic gluten fragments, four claimed to help alleviate gastrointestinal symptoms associated with eating gluten. Disclaimers included not being evaluated by the US Food and Drug Administration and products not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. On Google AdWords, the search frequency for the product names and the search terms was 3173 searches per month.

Conclusions: The names of these products make implicit claims that appear to be supported by the claims on the labels and websites for which there is no scientific basis. Google search data suggest great interest and therefore possible use by patients with CD. There needs to be greater oversight of these 'drugs'.

Keywords: celiac disease; gluten free diet; glutenases.