Considering how many Americans are now “gluten-free,” it’s concerning that the science behind this food sensitivity is shaky at best. But a new study out of the University of Bologna may offer some insight: Gluten sensitivity can be traced to high levels of a protein in the gut, zonulin, that’s linked to inflammation and a whole range of other uncomfortable symptoms. NPR explains:
To test the theory, Giovanni Barbara and a team of researchers at the University of Bologna measured blood levels of zonulin in four groups of individuals: those with celiac disease, those with irritable bowel syndrome marked by diarrhea, those with self-diagnosed gluten sensitivity and healthy volunteers. Both celiacs and gluten sensitives turned up with remarkably high levels of zonulin in their blood. Those with IBS had elevated levels but less than half of celiacs or gluten sensitive individuals. Healthy volunteers had negligible blood levels of zonulin.
If it would be possible to shut down zonulin production in the gut — through some kind of medication — that would offer relief to many. (Except for perhaps Goop’s devotees, who would have to come up with a new excuse to avoid bread.)