An enzyme pill, taken while consuming food, may potentially allow individuals with gluten sensitivity the ability to consume small amounts of gluten without experiencing digestive symptoms.

The enzyme, aspergillus niger-derived prolyl endoprotease (AN-PEP), has been shown in previous studies to be efficacious in breaking down gluten when it was intragastrically infused in a liquid meal through a feeding tube.

For this study 18 individuals with self-reported gluten sensitivity ate porridge that included two crumbled wheat-containing cookies. They were also administered high or low doses of AN-PEP or a placebo. Gluten levels were then measured in the stomach and small intestine over the next 3 hours. 

Results showed that compared to placebo, gluten levels in the high- and low-dose AN-PEP groups were 85% lower in the stomach, and 81% and 87% lower in the duodenum, for the high and low dose group, respectively. 

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The authors emphasized that the enzyme was not tested and is not recommended for use in patients with celiac disease, as even a small amount of gluten can inflict long-term damage in these patients.

“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,” said Julia König, PhD, the study’s lead author and research fellow at the University of Örebro, Sweden.

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