Did Wheat Hybridization Give Rise To Celiac Disease?

Starting in the 1960’s, and increasingly in the 1990’s, plant breeders undertook efforts to produce hybrid wheat varieties with the goals of improving yield and disease resistance. Both worthwhile goals but it’s possible that wheat hybridization may have led to the rapidly growing prevalence of celiac disease today.

We learn that not all gluten is created equally. A study identifies that, “Gluten proteins from wheat can induce celiac disease (CD) in genetically susceptible individuals. Specific gluten peptides can be presented by antigen presenting cells to gluten-sensitive T-cell lymphocytes leading to CD.”1

The same abstract explains that a study of over 80 varieties of wheat shows a higher concentration of two CD epitopes (Glia-α9 and Glia-α20) in the more modern varieties of wheat.

This study suggests the possibility that hybridization of wheat may be an underlying cause for the recent rise in CD but does that mean that einkorn is the answer? Not necessarily.  Einkorn is an ancient, diploid variety of wheat – the most primitive species of wheat available today. Many people worldwide are working to restore it to our modern diets because of its dietary benefits.

So far, the studies on einkorn’s toxicity have been mixed, although it is considered less toxic than modern wheat.  For that reason – though they express an interest in doing so – we always recommend that celiac patients should not consume einkorn.  After consulting with their doctor, gluten sensitive people, on the other hand, have reported that they consume eikorn with diminished or no reaction.  In addition, naturally leavening bread also seems to help with digestibility, and we’ll share more on this in the coming months.

Do you have a study to share on this topic?  Please share a link or reference in the comments along with your summary of the study so we can all participate in the discussion together.

In the mean time, we are fortunate to enjoy einkorn farro today for its superior health benefits.

31 thoughts on “Did Wheat Hybridization Give Rise To Celiac Disease?

  1. Helen Coleman

    I am looking for a place to buy einkorn wheat berries. Do you have a supply available? If so, please e-mail me with price, shipping, etc.



      1. Katherine

        Hi there!
        Thanks for this very valuable post. I would like to know where I can purchase einkorn wheat berries also. If possible please email the information and I thank you in advance! Be well.

    1. Barbara Randolph

      I have medically diagnose Celiac disease, I have had it “all” of my life, I was born in 1943. What reference can I check for further information on thceliac. This that I just read on this site is “very” limited in scope. I’m looking for a history further in the past cases. I know that it was discovered in the mid1800’s and was named after the Dr, who discovered it during the great potato famine in Ireland..??

      1. Admin

        Hi Barbara, since einkorn does have gluten we don’t recommend it to people with Celiac disease unless they check with their doctor first. We have had celiac patients who claim to be able to eat it with no problems, but we obviously can’t verify their specific cases.

  2. Pingback: Wheat Belly: Einkorn Wheat « primally kosher

  3. Stuart Wentz

    I am looking for wheat that has NOT been genetically modified. It sounds like your wheat fits that description. Email me the wheat berry information, i.e. protein, gluten factors and how I can purchase your einkorn wheat.

    1. Gem

      GMO wheat is only just starting to come in to being. Most if it all commercially available wheat today is not genetically modified but still harmful as it is hybridised and selectively chemically mutated.

    2. Marty

      No wheat has been genetically modified. It’s been hybridized but that’s a different thing. However, it did really mess with modern wheat and all the reactions people are having today. There are other heritage wheats that work, too, like Turkey Red and Red Fife.

  4. Bethany

    The comment before mine is spam, by the way 🙂

    Anyway – I don’t have any studies to share but I am looking for more information on this. I’ve suffered from nutritional information overload for a couple years now and went grain free, and then gluten-free and just yesterday I decided that the best option might be einkorn. I’m tired of gluten-free in a family that loves their breads and everything… and admittedly I do miss a nice slice of german rye bread!

    The weird thing is – I’m not celiac, and not gluten sensitive. There’s so much teaching out there that wheat is so bad for you – and it probably is – and so I guess I just don’t know what to believe. I’ve been a blogger in the “real food” area for a while but I burned out and I’m really re-evaluating the idea that somehow making baked goods from multiple highly processed gluten-free flours is healthier than wheat I grind and bake into a nice fermented sourdough myself.

    Anyway… I guess this is just a mini-rant. I might buy some einkorn and try growing it – I don’t think I could afford to buy it for as much as my family wants to eat baked goods but I think I will still try it….

  5. David Gariano

    I’ve just had 5 ancient wheat varieties sprout in trays where i will grow them until transplanting outside. there are a number of sources for ancient wheat varieties(just search it) . I got mine from Bountiful Harvest in willits Ca. they also have good information and cultivar practices which differ from modern wheat (durham) .4/2013

  6. Paula

    I’m a farmer with a conscience. My husband and I want to grow wheat that provides more nourishment than problems. We are looking for Einkorn seed but finding US sources that sell for upward of $28 an ounce – absurd if you have to plant several acres in order to make the exercise cost effective. We have tried seed from Italy which is much more reasonable but has a dismal germination rate. If anyone out there knows of a reasonably priced, US sourced Einkorn seed producer, please let me know. The planting season is upon us!

    1. B Edge

      You realize that the reason the einkorn seed is so expensive is probably BECAUSE it has such low germination. That and the yield is so much lower than modern wheat. Breeders over the centuries have selected wheat that has less dormancy (contributes to low germination) so that all the seed germinate when planted.

      1. admin Post author

        We had our seed tested by a state seed lab and they showed a 98% germination rate so the germination rate is very good. The yield is lower but a big factor in the cost is that einkorn has to be dehulled prior to use. Removal of the hull is a special process, in addition to the threshing you use to harvest any wheat, and results in a loss in mass of approximately 40%, which greatly reduces the net yield.

    2. Steve Sossaman

      I am growing several varieties of ancient wheat here in Arizona. We in America have wheat that has been hybridized but no GMO wheat that I know of. I grow for Hayden Flour Mills and our seed is very reasonable in cost. The varieties we grow have been very true to their history, low water use and low in nitrogen needs. People that are sensitive to grain should ferment the bread dough for several hours before baking, (natural leavening). A documentary film is being produced about what we are doing here in Arizona called “Rise of the Grain”, look for it soon.

  7. Michael McElroy

    I want to plant Einkorn Wheat for my family. Do you sell wheat berries for planting? If you do, please email me the info.


  8. T.B


    I am looking for Freekah and Burghul made from Einkorn. Do you have that or know where I can get them? Thanks

    1. Paul

      A study a year later suggesting that the genes producing the protein structures associated with CD response in modern wheat also are found in the DNA of ancient wheat, Einkorn (Triticum monococcum). (Mol Genet Genomics. 2009 Mar;281(3):289-300. doi: 10.1007/s00438-008-0412-8. Epub 2008 Dec 23.)

      “Four bona fide toxic peptides and 13 immunogenic peptides were found. All the classes of storage proteins were shown to contain harmful sequences.”

      A catalogue of Triticum monococcum genes encoding toxic and immunogenic peptides for celiac disease patients.
      Vaccino P, Becker HA, Brandolini A, Salamini F, Kilian B.
      Consiglio per la Ricerca e la sperimentazione in Agricoltura-Unità di Ricerca per la Selezione dei Cereali e la Valorizzazione delle varietà vegetali (CRA-SCV), Via Forlani 3, 26866, S. Angelo Lodigiano (LO), Italy. [email protected]
      The celiac disease (CD) is an inflammatory condition characterized by injury to the lining of the small-intestine on exposure to the gluten of wheat, barley and rye. The involvement of gluten in the CD syndrome has been studied in detail in bread wheat, where a set of “toxic” and “immunogenic” peptides has been defined. For wheat diploid species, information on CD epitopes is poor. In the present paper, we have adopted a genomic approach in order to understand the potential CD danger represented by storage proteins in diploid wheat and sequenced a sufficiently large number of cDNA clones related to storage protein genes of Triticum monococcum. Four bona fide toxic peptides and 13 immunogenic peptides were found. All the classes of storage proteins were shown to contain harmful sequences. The major conclusion is that einkorn has the full potential to induce the CD syndrome, as already evident for polyploid wheats. In addition, a complete overview of the storage protein gene arsenal in T. monococcum is provided, including a full-length HMW x-type sequence and two partial HMW y-type sequences.

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  10. Laura Whitesides

    My parents have some wheat stored in their basement in big metal bins. They have had it for probably 40 years, maybe more. My dad says it will keep forever (or a very long time.) I am wondering if it is a non hybridized wheat grain. Hmmm. Interested in finding out more and/or how I could have it tested.

  11. Gail

    Laura, wheat started being hybridized by people back in the 1950s. You can find more info on this if you google: wheat hybridization of gluten history, and check out the 5th website (Why you should probably stop eating wheat).
    According to Dr Tom O’Bryan (as stated in the Functional Health Summit, July 2014, & on his website thedr.com) gluten IS a problem. And I agree…wheat has been hybridized (by man) to contain too much gluten. Dr O’Bryan said that we have a “cheesecloth” lining in our guts. Things that cause the “cheesecloth” to tear are gluten & lipopolysaccharides (exhaust from bacteria). Tears in the “cheesecloth” goes on, day after day, every time you eat gluten, and your body heals, but one day, you wear out the system and the tears in the “cheesecloth” don’t heal anymore & you get an autoimmunity disease. Dr. O’Bryan also stated that Dr Alessio Fasano, Chief, division of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition & Director, Center for Celiac Research at Harvard, said that no human can digest gluten.
    From all the research I’ve done, testing on myself, and research by Dr Weston A. Price & Sally Fallon, I believe that if you buy or grow heirloom wheat (einkorn, spelt, emmer, faro, kamut, Pacific Bluestem, Japhet, Mirabella, Milagre, Globe, Sin El Pheel, Mauri, Red Fife, Turkey Red, Russian Beardless – http://www.sustainlife.org/blogs/sustainlife/2012/06/ancient-and-heirloom-wheat-trial-varieties/) that has only been naturally hybridized (doesn’t contain high amounts of gluten) and it’s organic (no pesticides) and you soak, sprout or soured (make a sourdough starter), then and only then is it good for you. Once you sprout the grain, you can dry it or dehydrate it (<115˚F.), then you can grind it into flour. Yes, this is a lot of work, but necessary for good health. You can also add the sprouts to salads or smoothies.
    For more info, google” heirloom ancient wheat varieties
    Also google wheat hybridization of gluten history – the 2nd website (The History of How Wheat Became Toxic) is very interesting

  12. Dan

    Factor in Roundup used in wheat harvesting…its not solely a gluten issue. GMO yes probably due to Roundup resistance. Just saying.

    1. Roger Smart

      Dan there is almost no roundup used on wheat , this is a lie spread by Dr. Senneff and others to try to discredit Monsanto. As a wheat farmer of forty years I can tell you it is not done because it is not needed and would not effect the wheat as they claim. It does not increase yield, or is absorbed by the seed. Ask a real expert, a farmer. Thanks Roger

      1. Shan

        Roger, it is said – by many farmers themselves, as well as scientists studying the issue – to be sprayed just before harvest as it will “desicate” the wheat, making it easier to harvest by the machines….
        You may not do it, but many farmers are, and to say it’s a lie by Dr. Senneff is very disingenuous of you.

  13. Allen Faber

    Re: pre-harvest application of Roundup for “weed control” and desiccation.
    I imagine wheat maturation follows a Gaussian distribution, but I don’t know the standard deviation of the maturity point at which the wheat berry is no longer receiving “nutrients” from the plant.
    The Roundup label recommendations for 7 days is, to me, an attempt to convince people that the effects of the herbicide has dissipated, and is no longer toxic.
    The real concern should be the “tail” of the maturity distribution that describes the wheat population of the whole field. If, at the time of Roundup application, any of the wheat in any part of the field has only matured to a certain stage where it is still providing “nutrients” to the wheat berry, then some Glyphosate will end up in the harvested wheat. This is what should be investigated.
    Someone. tell me I’m wrong, but please provide your reasoning.

    1. Admin

      Hi Allen, I don’t know about this but we do not use roundup at any stage of the process with einkorn.


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