There seems to be some confusion about whether wheat is associated with type 1 diabetes, i.e., the form that generally occurs in children consequent to destruction of insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells. This is not to be confused with the contribution wheat makes to type 2 diabetes, the type that generally afflicts adults, though it is indeed now occurring in children, as well.

There are several lines of evidence that suggest—not prove, but suggest—that some component(s) of wheat induce the changes that lead to type 1 diabetes in genetically-susceptible people, both children and adults. (This is summarized on pages 112-113 of the Wheat Belly book, but much of the skepticism over this argument, as always, comes from people who have not read the book.)

–Children with celiac disease are 10-fold more likely to develop type 1 diabetes than children without celiac disease (Hansen 2001).
–Children with type 1 diabetes are 10- to 20-fold more likely to develop celiac disease and/or antibodies to wheat components (Barera 2002).
–The experimental mouse and rat models for type 1 diabetes demonstrate a connection to wheat. One study, for instance, showed that 64% of mice fed wheat-containing chow develop type 1 diabetes, compared to 15% of mice fed non-wheat-containing chow that develop type 1 diabetes (Funda 1999).
–Children with type 1 diabetes have 24-29% likelihood of autoantibodies, i.e., antibodies against
“self” proteins, compared to 6% in children without type 1 diabetes (Barker 2006 and others). Wheat gliadin and lectins have been implicated in generating increased intestinal damage and permeability that can lead to increased autoantibody expression (Visser 2009). Admittedly, this is correlation, not necessarily causation. But the closer we look, the worse it gets.

Concerningly, the NIH/CDC-sponsored SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth Study has documented that, starting in 1978, the incidence of type 1 diabetes has been increasing 2.7% per year (Vehik 2007). This phenomenon is not confined to the U.S., but has been demonstrated in registries in other countries, as well. Note that, since 1978, humans have not really changed . . . but the wheat has. Specifically, wheat gliadin, glutens, and lectins have changed, the three most important and potentially immunogenic (immune-stimulating) components of modern wheat.

What we don’t have is a trial in humans, half of whom eat wheat starting at birth, half of whom avoid wheat from birth. You can imagine the difficulties in conducting such a trial. So don’t hold your breath waiting for these data.

So how incriminating does something have to be before we take action? Note that type 1 diabetes is a life-long diagnosis that can only be managed with present technology, not cured. In my book, we have such overwhelmingly damning evidence against wheat in so many spheres of health that this simply provides one more reason, in this case an argument to avoid in newborns, infants, and children.

This is yet another potential “nail in the coffin” for wheat, i.e., an association so bad that, if substantiated, will add to wheat’s downward spiral.