Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Glutinous Truth about Spelt

There is a stomach bug going around the office (or so I thought) and I’ve been really sick this week.  I was so overcome with nausea on Tuesday mid-morning I secluded myself to the car with intense stomach pains and light headedness before my fiancé could drive me home at lunch time.  Covering my eyes from the sun and trying to breathe through my nose to avoid getting sick – I was in bad shape. 
Now Thursday, my appetite is still virtually non-existent but I’m functioning.  As my head begins to clear and I can stand upright without feeling dizzy, I start to think about everything that I’ve eaten in the past week.  Did I introduce anything new to my regular diet?  And then it clicks – I bought bagels and ate my first one on Tuesday morning.   I run to the refrigerator and take a look – spelt.  I ate a 100% wheat bagel for breakfast.  Despite my relief to know what is causing all of my pain, I berate myself (as I start my vitamin and intestinal cleansing pill regiment) for not double checking labels even when shopping in the “gluten-free” section of the grocery store.
Spelt is NOT gluten free.  My experience this week is not the only evidence.  My research relies heavily on blogs and comments from the general public but I came across this medical quote from
Authors: Kasarda DD. D'Ovidio R.
Source Cereal Chemistry. 76(4):548-551, 1999 Jul-Aug.
Abstract: The complete amino acid sequence of an alpha-type gliadin from spelt wheat (spelta) has been deduced from the cloned DNA sequence and compared with alpha-type gliadin sequences from bread wheat. The comparison showed only minor differences in amino acid sequences between the alpha-type gliadin from bread wheat and the alpha-type gliadin from spelta. The two sequences had an identity of 98.5%. Larger differences can be found between different alpha-type gliadin amino acid sequences from common bread wheat. Because all the different classes of gliadins, alpha, beta, gamma, and omega, appear to be active in celiac disease, it is reasonably certain that the spelta gliadin is also toxic. We conclude that spelta is not a safe grain for people with celiac disease, contrary to the implications in labeling a bread made from spelta as "an alternative to wheat". Our conclusions are in accord with spelta and bread wheat being classed taxonomically as subspecies of the same genus and species, Triticum aestivum L. [References: 36]
For those of you who’s heads are reeling from your spelt bagel, I bolded the important sentence.  Spelt and wheat share 98.5% of the same DNA.   Just for reference, and humor sake, you only share 50% of your DNA with your parents, siblings, and children.  Identical twins share 100% of the same DNA.  Wheat and Spelt are not siblings or even distant cousins (who share 25% of your DNA) but practically identical twins! 


Jennifer said...

Oooo- genetic talk! Great research find.

Ian Smith said...

Hey Ann!

Sorry to hear about your troubles.

It is interesting that spelt and wheat have a 98.5% common genetic structure for alpha-type gliadin. A similar comparison frequently is made between human and chimp DNA. Specifically, the overlap is about 96 percent*. In terms of individual humans, it seems that the contribution made from each parent to the child is 50 percent, but the genetic code is well over 99 percent shared between each parent and the child*.

It would be fantastic if a method could be found to turn off, alter, or block the gliadins in grains so that the immune reaction were eliminated for folks with celiac disease. Of course, this leads to a totally different discussion about the ethics of genetically-modified plants. Anyway, I hope that you feel better!



Nena said...

Oh, I would be interesting in knowing what your detox regimen is. How long does it usually take to feel better? Thanks!