Gluten is a word derived from the Latin language which gives the meaning “glue”. As the name suggests, gluten gives an adhesive effect to various cereal grains in addition to providing elasticity, maintaining the shape and helping in the rising process for the doughs made from those cereal grains. Gluten is made out of prolamins and glutelins which are two forms of storage proteins. It is stored along with starch in the tissues that are formed inside the seeds following fertilization, known as the endosperm. Gluten is commonly found in wheat, barley, rye, oats and several other cereal grains.
Gluten is identified as having aging effects primarily due to the biological mechanisms that gluten undergoes such as glycation, inflammation and oxidation. In addition to these three mechanisms, gluten is known to cause various conditions in some individuals such as celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity which may have aging effects. Even though there are several such mechanisms when gluten is considered, the most noteworthy issue that is talked about is the celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune reaction that occurs in the presence of gluten in the diet. This condition can be treated by strictly following a non-gluten diet. Celiac disease causes the immune system to react in such a way that it damages the villi in the small intestine when gluten is ingested. It is also known to cause a number of other symptoms among which inflammation is identified as an accelerator for the aging process. Numerous animal and clinical studies have been conducted to identify how inflammation can induce aging and the results positively associate inflammations to induce aging and develop chronic diseases. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is defined as “a clinical entity induced by the ingestion of gluten leading to intestinal and/or extraintestinal symptoms that improve once the gluten-containing foodstuff is removed from the diet, and celiac disease and wheat allergy have been excluded”. It is another common disorder that is associated with a number of aging effects such as dementia and inflammation which may accelerate aging in addition to the general symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, peripheral immune and neuro-immune communication. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity and celiac disease are also known to cause difficulties in recalling and memory and may lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
However, since celiac disease patients are to strictly follow gluten free diets, the effects may be minimal. Also, non-celiac gluten sensitivity does not occur in every individual and thus, there is a requirement to identify whether gluten can have an affect on aging in individuals who are not diagnosed with these diseases. Gluten causes aging in such situations by the process of glycation and oxidation. Glycation is a biochemical process that bonds lipid, protein and sugar molecules that forms Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs) which causes stiffening of protein fibers, resulting in wrinkles and reduced performance and functionality of organs. This is a normal process that occurs, however more AGEs are produced in diets that contain gluten, resulting in premature aging. Oxidation of gluten also causes the hardening of proteins which can cause similar symptoms to glycation, resulting in lose or saggy skin.
To minimize premature aging, try to minimize gluten in your diet or switch to a gluten free diet to enjoy the maximum benefits.
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- Radlović N, e. (2018). Effect of gluten-free diet on the growth and nutritional status of children with coeliac disease. – PubMed – NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20069920 [Accessed 19 Mar. 2018].