When sponsorship dollars muddy the messaging for products sold to the gluten-free community
In Honor of Celiac Disease Awareness Month, Gluten Free Watchdog is writing a series of articles (the goal is one per day during the month of May) related to the gluten-free diet–currently the ONLY treatment for celiac disease.
“Let them eat cake with GliadinX Prolyl Endoprotease.” This is the statement at the top of a flyer distributed to attendees at this year’s University of Chicago Celiac Center Spring Flours Gala*. And according to the Spring Flours invitation posted online, GliadinX was a sponsor (1).
*See photo sent to Gluten Free Watchdog by an attendee at this year’s event. Photo posted with permission.
My question: Does the statement, “Let them eat cake with GliadinX” not suggest that folks with celiac disease can eat regular wheat-based cake as long as they take GliadinX along with it?
Yes, this digestive enzyme contains AN-PEP. And yes, AN-PEP is very promising and may in fact be able to break down considerable amounts of gluten in the stomach before it reaches the small intestine. But those studying this enzyme continue to state that, “Despite these promising results, the data do not prove that AN-PEP allows subjects intolerant to gluten to ingest gluten safely. Oral enzymes cannot replace a gluten-free diet, yet our observations suggest that AN-PEP may be useful as a digestive aid to help digest hidden gluten. ” (2)
A press release for a study abstract on AN-PEP presented at this year’s Digestive Disease Week states, “The study found that AN-PEP, in both high and low doses, broke down gluten in both the stomach and the first part of the small intestine, or duodenum. In the stomach, gluten levels in both the high and low-dose groups were 85 percent lower than in the placebo group. Once the food reached the duodenum, gluten levels were reduced by 81 percent in the high dose group and 87 percent in the low dose group versus placebo.” (3)
One of the study authors, Julia Konig, states in the press release, “Our results suggest that this enzyme can potentially reduce the side effects that occur when gluten-sensitive individuals accidentally eat a little gluten. 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.”
There is a lot coming down the pike for folks with celiac disease—enzymes to digest gluten, consumer devices to test food for gluten, and consumer tests to detect gluten in stool and urine. Because of the way these products will be positioned and sold they will not require FDA pre-market approval. Consequently, consumers will be relying on the support groups, celiac centers, publications, medical professionals, and advocates they trust to provide information that is accurate and balanced.
Providing balanced scientifically based information becomes tricky when sponsorship dollars are involved. But proper vetting of manufacturers and attention to messaging are required. This is especially true when information is provided at events hosted by celiac disease centers. It is more important than ever that those of us in a position to explain the science take the time to do so. And it is equally important that we stick to the science even when it means having to push back on the messaging from sponsors.
- Spring Flours invitation available at http://www.cureceliacdisease.org/wp-content/uploads/CdC_SpringFlours_Invitation_WEB_17-3-1.pdf
- Research article on AN-PEP available at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/apt.13266/epdf
- DDW press release available at http://www.ddw.org/blogs/aimee-frank/2017/05/07/a-unique-enzyme-could-be-a-game-changer-for-gluten-sensitive-patients?CommunityKey=e1a95ab4-c2da-436d-be33-59f0c867cdcf&tab=
Tomorrow’s Post: Consumers & Manufacturers: What you must know about gluten test results using the Nima Sensor