Grist discusses Can’t eat gluten? Pesticides and nonstick pans might have something to do with it, study says.
It seems like everyone knows someone with a sensitivity to gluten — a protein mixture found in cereal grains, like wheat and barley. A third of all Americans say they avoid products with gluten in them, and grocery store shelves are overflowing with gluten-free products that didn’t exist a decade ago.
For roughly 1 percent of the planet’s population, eating gluten triggers a genetic immune response called celiac disease that has wide-ranging consequences. The disease’s symptoms range from mild, like diarrhea, fatigue, gas, to severe. Think nausea and vomiting, osteoporosis, infertility, neurological problems, and even the development of other autoimmune diseases.
The root causes of celiac disease have largely stumped epidemiologists. But a study out Tuesday by researchers from New York University establishes a link between the disease and two groups of manmade chemicals: pesticides and a compound known as PFAS, which is often found in products around the house. It might help explain why some people who are susceptible to celiac disease end up developing it when others don’t. The researchers analyzed the levels of toxic chemicals in the blood of 90 children, 30 of whom had recently been diagnosed celiac. They found that those with high levels of pesticides in their blood were twice as likely to develop the disease.