Last year, we reported that Fasano and his team discovered zonulin, which regulates the space (called tight junctions) between intestinal cells. His groundbreaking research revealed that zonulin is released by gliadin, a compound found in gluten. When zonulin is released, the tight cellular junctions relax, allowing space to open in the gastrointestinal lining where toxins can slip through into the blood stream (i.e., “leaky gut”).
The final piece to the puzzle? People with autoimmune disease tend to exhibit elevated zonulin levels, so when they consume gliadin-rich gluten, it’s like opening the floodgates for all sorts of internal trouble.
Much like we are, Joe Pizzorno was taken aback by the quality and implications of Fasano’s work, calling the lecture nothing short of “remarkable.”
Among the loud white noise and marketing ploys that continue to plague the gluten-free movement, it’s always important to reflect on the real reasons that gluten proves troublesome for so many and renew your commitment to gluten-free living.
Could Zonulin Play a Role in Diabetes, Too?
Fasano decided to take his findings a step further and research the role of zonulin in diabetic patients. Out of 339 patients with type 1 diabetes, 42% had upregulated zonulin levels. His experiments show that when zonulin levels are increased, intestinal permeability increases, eventually leading to the onset of disease.
Excess zonulin, Fasano found, seemed to precede the onset of type 1 diabetes, providing a possible link between increased intestinal permeability, exposure to toxins, and the development of autoimmunity in genetically susceptible individuals.
The takeaway? Cut out gluten early on in life to help keep zonulin levels in check.
Modern Wheat Was Genetically Modified to Contain More Gluten
The hybridization of wheat has dramatically increased the amount of gluten in wheat-containing foods we consume on a daily basis. When wheat was genetically modified as part of an attempt to address world hunger, it morphed into a short, fat species unrecognizable from ancient eikhorn wheat.
Modern wheat essentially contains super carbs that our bodies haven’t evolved to digest, like the super starch amylopectin A, which had been linked insulin resistance. Yikes!