A Question of Barley

Different varieties of barley less toxic to coeliacs

The only current treatment for people with coeliac disease is the avoidance of gluten-containing grains such as rye, barley, wheat and (sometimes) oats. These must be avoided very strictly, as the smallest amount of gluten in a coeliac’s diet can cause severe symptoms, depending on the individual. Barley, however, is a very nutritious grain, and the identification of barley varieties with a lower toxicity to coeliacs may enable sufferers of the disease to improve the nutritional value of their diets.

A group of scientists from Spain investigated the strains of malting and wild barley, and measured the toxicity of the different barleys using, among other things, the G12 antibody, cell proliferation and intestinal biopsies from coeliac patients. They saw a direct correlation between the G12 antibody reaction and the allergenicity of the different barleys.

They found that the malting barleys were less toxic, had lower levels of the toxic gluten, and were possibly less harmful to coeliacs. Taking into account the Codex standards, it may be worth developing these barley species with a naturally low level of toxic gluten, in order to bring barley back into the diet of coeliacs.

Source: Molecular Nutrition & Food Research

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