In light of the coincident surge in overall gluten intake and the incidence of autoimmune diseases, the possible biological adverse effects of gluten were explored. PubMed, MEDLINE, and the Cochrane Library databases were screened for reports published between 1964 and 2016 regarding the adverse effects of gluten as well as the effects of a gluten-free diet on autoimmune diseases. In vitro and in vivo studies describing gluten intake in animal models or cell lines and gluten-free diets in human autoimmune diseases were reviewed. Multiple detrimental aspects of gluten affect human health, including gluten-dependent digestive and extradigestive manifestations mediated by potentially immunological or toxic reactions that induce gastrointestinal inadequacy. Gluten affects the microbiome and increases intestinal permeability. It boosts oxidative stress and affects epigenetic behavior. It is also immunogenic, cytotoxic, and proinflammatory. Gluten intake increases apoptosis and decreases cell viability and differentiation. In certain nonceliac autoimmune diseases, gluten-free diets may help curtail the adverse effects of gluten. Additional in vivo studies are needed to unravel the puzzle of gluten effects in humans and to explore the potential beneficial effects of gluten-free diets in autoimmune diseases.
Keywords: adverse effect; autoimmunity; biological effects; celiac disease; gluten-free diet.
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