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  5. Plant and food technological approaches to reduce the incidence of coeliac disease

Plant and food technological approaches to reduce the incidence of coeliac disease


Dr Luud Gilissen

Dr Gilissen read biology and did his PhD on plant physiology at Radboud University, The Netherlands (1978). He then moved to Wageningen University and Research Centre, The Netherlands, where he is involved in plant cellular and molecular research. He cofounded the Coeliac Disease Consortium (2004–2013), a large innovative public private research project in which he led the Food Genomics Cluster focusing on gluten genomics and proteomics and on the development of safe(r) wheat and gluten-free oat production. In this context, he established The Dutch Oat Chain, a public private partnership aimed at the promotion of oat cultivation, consumption and research to improve health of the society, including the coeliac population.


The presentation will briefly review allergy, intolerance and sensitivity to cereals, especially wheat. Plant and food approaches may be explored to potentially reduce the incidence of coeliac disease and other food related conditions. There are a number of potential strategies:

  • Improvement of the gluten-free diet per se may help to improve the health of individuals with persistent symptoms and villous atrophy despite strict adherence to a gluten-free diet.
  • Plant related strategies include the search for coeliac disease low immunogenic wheat varieties, the further development of so called ‘wheat deletion lines’ that lack parts of chromosomes containing gluten gene families, and the application of genetic modification to silence the expression of gluten gene families.
  • Food technological approaches may include the reduced use of gluten, as a bread improver, and an increased use of a range of processed food products, including those where the highly coeliac disease immunogenic gliadin fraction has been eliminated but leaving the technologically important glutenins functional.
  • Alternative grains: there is evidence that the majority of people with coeliac disease can tolerate uncontaminated gluten-free oats; none of the gluten epitopes known from wheat, barley and rye occur in oats.

Execution of these strategies requires a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary undertaking, posing few challenges and responsibilities for breeders, food industries, research organisations and governments, to better balance wheat with human health and food safety.

Gilissen LJWJ et al. (2014) Reducing the incidence of allergy and intolerance to cereals. J Cereal Sci May;59 (3): 337-353

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