With the countless stories available warning people against what they should eat, most are focused on the physical health of the person. Weight concerns are typically at the forefront, while cancer prevention and other benefits are also routinely examined.
Now, new studies out of Scotland find that there could be a connection between certain foods and mental health. According to Scottish TV News, scientists suggest that gluten-rich foods could contribute to triggering schizophrenia in individuals who have a genetic predisposition to the condition.
Gluten, a protein found commonly in rye, wheat, and barley, is being studied by geneticist Dr. Jun Wei and his team at the University of the Highlands and Islands. Already recognized as a trigger for serious diseases related to the gut, gluten is now being examined for its potential role in schizophrenia, as well as diabetes.
Professor Ian Megson, head of the UHI Department of Diabetes and Cardiovascular Science, noted that this link is being examined in what appears to be two completely different diseases to determine if people with a particular makeup results in their body’s inability to handle gluten in the normal way.
For those who react adversely to gluten, the immune system becomes unusually active. In this type of environment, cells in the blood designed to combat infections actually begin to target healthy tissue. This activity can lead to impaired function or affected organs, such as the brain.
According to Dr. Wei, gluten is an environmental factor that should be considered along with an individual’s inherited genes to determine his or her likelihood of developing schizophrenia. More than 30 percent of those who suffer from this condition have high levels of antibodies against gluten in their system, suggesting that a gluten-free diet might help to reduce the symptoms of schizophrenia.