Wheat Gluten Spurs Brain Inflammation

Summary: Researchers found that wheat gluten induces brain inflammation in mice, a finding that could have implications for human health.

The study revealed that when mice consumed gluten, inflammation occurred in the hypothalamic region of the brain, which plays a vital role in regulating metabolism. While past research demonstrated gluten’s effects on weight gain and inflammation in the digestive system, this is the first study highlighting its impact on the brain.

The findings raise questions about potential long-term effects on humans, such as weight gain, blood sugar regulation issues, and impaired memory.

Key Facts:

  1. The research indicated that gluten, when added to the diet of mice, caused inflammation in the hypothalamic region of the brain.
  2. Mice models are deemed valuable for studying human physiology due to similarities in various systems, suggesting potential implications for humans.
  3. While the exact reason for the inflammation is still unknown, one theory suggests that indigestible components of gluten may trigger an immune response similar to that seen in celiac patients.

Source: University of Otago

Original Research: Open access.
Dietary wheat gluten induces astro‐ and microgliosis in the hypothalamus of male mice” by Alex Tups et al. Journal of Neuroendocrinology

Full Paper (Open Access):

Gluten, which is found in cereals such as wheat, rye and barley, makes up a major dietary component in most western nations, and has been shown to promote body mass gain and peripheral inflammation in mice. In the current study, we investigated the impact of gluten on central inflammation that is typically associated with diet-induced obesity. While we found no effect of gluten when added to a low-fat diet (LFD), male mice fed high fat diet (HFD) enriched with gluten increased body mass and adiposity compared with mice fed HFD without gluten. We furthermore found that gluten, when added to the LFD, increases circulating C-reactive protein levels. Gluten regardless of whether it was added to LFD or HFD led to a profound increase in the number of microglia and astrocytes in the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus, as detected by immunohistochemistry for ionised calcium binding adaptor molecule 1 (Iba-1) and glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), respectively. In mice fed LFD, gluten mimicked the immunogenic effects of HFD exposure and when added to HFD led to a further increase in the number of immunoreactive cells. Taken together, our results confirm a moderate obesogenic effect of gluten when fed to mice exposed to HFD and for the first-time report gluten-induced astro- and microgliosis suggesting the development of hypothalamic injury in rodents.



I quit eating wheat & then read the book on avoiding it. One of the things it said was that eating wheat could cause joint pain. I realized that the joint pain I had been having had gone away, which has motivated me to continue to avoid it.

Anecdotal, but a small data point.

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I wonder what the source of wheat gluten was. I couldn’t find it in the paper. It would be interesting to see if there is a difference between “modern” wheat and “heritage” wheat. There are claims that there is a significant difference. There is at least one paper related to this Differential Physiological Responses Elicited by Ancient and Heritage Wheat Cultivars Compared to Modern Ones Quick search found other papers talking about it but they mainly focus on difference in gluten quantity not other aspects of wheat makeup.

I’ve recently got into baking sourdough bread and have been using heritage grains, but mainly cause they have a nice taste :slight_smile: . Also note that if you have actual Celiac Disease, heritage grains are still dangerous.


I don’t have celiac, but…

I have been plagued by skin blemishes, aka pimples, aka zits, my entire life. Even at, like, five years old. Especially on my prominent nose, especially on the end of same, and also on the interior.

It wasn’t until age 64 that I got some clue as to what be going on. I had started eating a lot of Quaker Oats, and noticed that the usual level of break-outs greatly accelerated. So I tried switching to some other ‘organic’ brand of oats and perceived a noticeable reduction in zits. And then I noticed there was something on the grocery shelf called Bob’s Redmill GLUTEN FREE Oats. After some googling, I switched to that, and the incremental problem I got from oat-eating was eliminated.

Tfw, you think you’re eating oats and the wheat content gets you.

After that experiment, I set about about checking the labels on all the stuff I normally eat, and wheat showed up just about everywhere. And subsequent experience has shown that, even if wheat isn’t explicitly called out on the label, it may well be in the product. If it isn’t labeled ‘gluten free’ it probably isn’t given the marketing value of the claim.

Seems to work this way: I eat wheat products, my skin generates sebum (white gunk), which in turn leads to breakouts. Don’t eat wheat, no sebum, no pimples.

So now I have mostly eliminated wheat products, with an attendant reduction in breakouts. I allow myself one Clif Bar a week, before going on my weekly hike. Still occasionally get consternating breakouts, in fact right now, for example. I had stocked up on Kroger Private Selection ham, as it was labeled gluten-free. I just checked the labeling again in-store, and now there’s a sticker that says ‘Processed on machinery that may have had contact with …,…,wheat…’ Hoping that’s the source of the problem.

I tried to have conversation about this with a Kaiser dermatologist, and she insisted what I described was impossible, I would have to have celiac disease in order to have the skin problems. Which I don’t understand, as it’s easy to find non-celiac-but-wheat-related skin problems identified in wheat discourse.

One last observation which makes absolutely no sense to me.

Clif bars aren’t gluten free. I’ve eaten hundreds as a US hiking staple, with the attendant skin results. Nonetheless, I take a few dozen with me when traveling overseas. This should make a mess of my face and scalp, but…no. (Well maybe a little bit, but about 5% of my expectation.) Not only that, but I can additionally consume local wheat products with impunity. I spent two months hiking in Kyrgyzstan and eating bread and butter like it was going out of style - no skin reaction at all. I thought this might be a third-world wheat phenomenon, but then I spent a few weeks in western Europe, same experience. The only place I’ve been to where this didn’t seem to hold was Australia.


In my podcast with James LaValle RPh, he said food sensitivities result from leaky gut. Elimination diets are useful in the short term but the long term solution is to heal the gut. Feed the microbiome (fiber, resistant starch, phytonutrients) and stop eating chemicals that injure the gut (antibiotics, food preservatives in HPF). Stress is also a contributor.

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Here’s the podcast I mentioned in case you are interested hearing Jim’s thoughts about healing the gut (and more).
James LaValle, podcast on Gut Health & More

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