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Biology and Genetics
Environment and Occupational Issues
- Gluten and Allergen Health Risks

Gluten is a commonly used wheat product that can trigger auto-immune responses in genetically susceptible individuals. Damage to the lining of the small intestine and an increased risk of several illnesses, adverse health effects and overall mortality rate can result.  In Canada, regulators have enacted new food labeling regulations for certain food allergens such as gluten. 

In western countries, rates of celiac disease have nearly doubled in the last 25 years. Celiac disease (CD), also known as gluten-sensitive enteropathy (GSE) or celiac sprue, is an auto-immune disorder of the small intestine which is triggered by exposure to dietary wheat gluten and similar proteins in rye and barley grains.  Celiac disease is the most severe form of gluten sensitivity affecting 1% of the population.  Risks associated with ingestion of foods containing gluten and related proteins are varied and include symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, anemia, arthritis, bone disease, malignancies and, neurological abnormalities to name a few. Long term exposure results in damaged intestinal lining therefore reduced absorption of nutrients and increased risk of complications. As a result the Canadian Food Inspection Agency enforced new labeling regulations for certain food allergens such as gluten. Accordingly, following a gluten free diet (GFD) acts as a highly effective option in preventing the risks associated with gluten. Still, the implementation of selective population wide screening protocols must be put in place in order to reap the benefits of a GFD for susceptible individuals. On the whole, the implementation of such regulatory strategies provides stake holders with the information necessary to reduce exposure and minimize the harmful risks associated with gluten.

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Contributors:  Melissa Descoteaux

Last Reviewed:  August 6, 2012


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