Research Finds Common Weed Could Cause Issues for Gluten-Intolerant Population

The gluten-like proteins found in ryegrass could be interacting with crops commonly used as wheat replacements, which may cause a reaction among people with celiac or gluten intolerance.

Proteins in a common weed found in gluten-free crops, such as buckwheat and sorghum, could cause trouble in people suffering from gluten intolerance, according to research conducted by Edith Cowan University (ECU).

The gluten-like proteins found in ryegrass could be interacting with crops commonly used as wheat replacements, which may cause a reaction among people with celiac or gluten intolerance, the study authors noted.

The researchers found the proteins in 10 cultivars of ryegrass, which are an invasive family of weeds commonly found in Australian cereal crops. Sophia Escobar-Correas, a researcher based at ECU, said the team identified 19 proteins found in ryegrass that had related properties to gluten proteins.

“We have developed a method to detect these ryegrass proteins that allows us to distinguish them from other grains,” Escobar-Correas said in a press release. “While these proteins aren’t strictly defined as gluten, they have the potential to trigger reactions for people who are coeliac and those with a gluten intolerance.”

This research helps other investigators understand whether ryegrass might be a problem so more solutions could be developed for the best outcomes. The next step is to start clinical studies to investigate whether these proteins trigger a celiac response, according to the study authors.

“If these proteins cause a reaction for people with gluten intolerance, then it’s important that we develop tests to detect their presence in food products which are otherwise gluten-free,” Escobar-Correas said in the press release.

Michelle Colgrave, ECU professor and co-author of the research, said they have identified an important potential challenge for gluten-free products.

“In 2019, the global market for gluten-free foods was worth around $6.3 billion and its growth shows no sign of slowing,” Colgrave said in the press release. “This research will help give consumers and producers confidence that products labelled as gluten-free are free from other proteins which may trigger reactions resulting from agricultural co-mingling.”

REFERENCE

Common weed could spell bellyache for gluten intolerant. Edith Cowan University. July 28, 2021. Accessed July 28, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/923474