Wheat-Based Diet Linked to Increased Severity of Multiple Sclerosis, New Research Reveals

by Ella

A recent investigation conducted by a research team at the University Medical Center Mainz has unveiled a potential connection between a diet containing wheat and the exacerbation of multiple sclerosis (MS). The culprit is identified as amylase trypsin inhibitors (ATI), natural proteins present in wheat, while gluten proteins appear to have no impact on the inflammatory reaction.

The findings underscore the significance of diet and gut health in influencing the trajectory of chronic inflammatory diseases, including MS. Notably, this research highlights how a specific food ingredient can contribute to inflammation, a revelation that adds a new layer to our understanding of dietary influences on health.


Published in the journals Gut and Therapeutic Advances in Neurological Disorders, the research has prompted the exploration of whether adopting a wheat-free diet could enhance drug therapies for MS.


Multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease affecting the central nervous system, is characterized by the immune system mistakenly attacking healthy nerve cells, leading to continuous cell death. Common early symptoms include temporary sensory disturbances, visual impairments, and muscle paralysis.


Globally, approximately 2.8 million people suffer from MS, with over 250,000 cases reported in Germany. The prevalence of the disease is on the rise, particularly among young adults and women. Multiple factors, including genetics and environmental elements like diet, contribute to triggering this chronic inflammatory condition.


While the inflammatory reactions caused by certain wheat proteins, such as gluten in celiac disease, were known, this research sheds new light on the broader inflammatory potential of other wheat proteins. Univ.-Prof. Dr. Dr. Detlef Schuppan, Director of the Institute of Translational Immunology at the University Medical Center Mainz and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, explains, “What is new is that other wheat proteins can generally contribute to inflammation.”

Amylase trypsin inhibitors (ATI), the natural proteins found in cereals like wheat, barley, and rye, are minimally digested and induce mild inflammatory reactions in the intestine. The research indicates that ATI proteins not only affect the intestine but can also lead to inflammation in organs throughout the body, including the central nervous system.

In an animal model study, a diet with 25% wheat significantly worsened MS symptoms compared to a wheat-free diet with identical nutritional content. Interestingly, a minimal amount of ATI proteins (0.15% of feed weight) reproduced the negative effects, while a larger amount of gluten proteins (5% of feed weight) did not.

The research team validated these findings in a clinical pilot study involving MS patients with moderately severe, mildly active symptoms. The group adhering to a wheat-reduced diet reported significantly less pain, and lower levels of inflammatory immune cells were measured in their blood.

Professor Schuppan emphasizes the importance of diet in conjunction with the gut microbiome and immune system for overall health. A wheat-free diet, as indicated by the research, has the potential to alleviate the severity of MS and other inflammatory diseases. Further studies, including combinations of a wheat-free diet with other therapeutic approaches, are anticipated to provide more insights into managing these conditions effectively.



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