Research News

New hope for gluten-sensitive patients

May, 2017    |

According to research presented at Digestive Disease Week 2017, an enzyme known as aspergillus niger-derived prolyl endoprotease (AN-PEP) could offer relief from gluten sensitivity.
Researchers found that by taking an enzyme tablet while consuming gluten-filled foods, patients can prevent a significant amount of the allergen from entering the small intestine. This finding could allow gluten-sensitive individuals to ingest small amounts of gluten without experiencing symptoms.
“This substance allows gluten-sensitive patients to feel safer, for example, when they are out with friends at a restaurant and can’t be sure whether something is 100 percent gluten-free,” says Julia König, PhD, the study’s lead author and post-doctoral research fellow at the School of Medical Sciences at University of Örebro, Sweden. “Since even small amounts of gluten can affect gluten-sensitive patients, this supplement can play an important role in addressing the residual gluten that is often the cause of uncomfortable symptoms.”
During the study, 18 self-reported gluten-sensitive patients ate a porridge that included two crumbled wheat cookies containing gluten. They also took either a high dose or low dose of AN-PEP, or a placebo. Researchers then measured gluten levels in the stomach and small intestine over the course of three hours.
Scientists found that in both high and low doses, AN-PEP broke down gluten in both the stomach and the first part of the small intestine. In the stomach, gluten levels in both the high- and low-dose groups were 85 per cent lower than in the placebo group. Once the food reached the duodenum, gluten levels were reduced by 81 per cent in the high dose group and 87 per cent in the low dose group versus placebo.
“Studies show that even when following a gluten-free diet, unintentional gluten intake can still occur, depending on how strict a gluten-free dieter is,” adds Dr. König. “Our results suggest that this enzyme can potentially reduce the side effects that occur when gluten-sensitive individuals accidentally eat a little gluten. We are not suggesting that AN-PEP will give these individuals the ability to eat pizza or pasta, sources of large amounts of gluten, but it might make them feel better if they mistakenly ingest gluten.”
Dr. König’s team did not test the enzyme on celiac disease patients, as even small amounts of gluten are potentially harmful for these individuals.