HealthDay News — There are clear biological changes in patients presenting with non-celiac wheat sensitivity, according to research published online July 25 in Gut.

Between 0.5 and 6% of the general population are estimated to have non-celiac wheat sensitivity, senior researcher Armin Alaedini, PhD, an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University in New York City, told HealthDay, although he cautioned that a lack of good diagnostic tools have hampered efforts to come up with a solid and accurate estimate.

This analysis of 80 patients with non-celiac wheat sensitivity found that these patients experience an immune response to wheat that’s less focused and more wide-ranging than that found in celiac disease, Alaedini said. These patients were studied alongside 40 patients with celiac disease and 40 healthy individuals in a control group. Patients with non-celiac wheat sensitivity did not experience an autoimmune reaction. And, they didn’t exhibit the intestinal cytotoxic T cells seen in celiac disease, Alaedini explained. But patients with non-celiac wheat sensitivity did show evidence of an acute and systemic immune activation that did not occur in celiac disease, accompanied by signs of cellular intestinal damage.

“We don’t know what is triggering this response, but this study is the first to show that there are clear biological changes in these individuals,” Alaedini said. “Based on our findings, we hope there would be greater recognition of this condition. This is a real condition. There are individuals who may not have celiac disease or wheat allergy, but still have a sensitivity to wheat.”

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