Lessons from the 2012 Anti-Aging Conference in Las Vegas…From Wheat to Autoimmune Disease and Obesity.

It is not possible to summarize all the multitude of lectures from a three day conference on one page. However, what was striking was that several topics such as autoimmunity, obesity, diabetes, hormone disbalances and more did develop into a common thread. Dr. William Davis, the author of the book “Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health” explained how the BASF, a major chemical company from Germany was able to chemically modify the genes of wheat in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The farmers liked that the new wheat (called Clearfield wheat) grew with stronger roots, shorter final stems and much larger grains so the yield per acre was higher. This type of wheat was patented under the name of Clearfield wheat and sold all around the world. What was not publicized at the time was that the gliadin content increased manifold from the composition of wheat strains used for thousands of years before. Gliadin gets rid of the glue like substance between the gut cells and causes leaky gut syndrome, something that was mentioned at many other lectures throughout the conference. This leads to exposure of immune cells to foreign proteins from the gut, which causes the immune system to hyper react with autoimmune antibodies.

Dr. Aristo Vojdani explained in his lecture that there are three stages of autoimmune disease. First, there is the silent stage where there are no symptoms, but the immune system is starting to react. Next there is autoimmune reactivity, which is the second stage. The third stage is autoimmune disease where there are signs of loss of body function. Autoimmunity develops in about 1/3 of identical twins in families who are prone to this. When non-identical twins were examined as a control group, only 2% to 5% of twins developed it. This tells us that genetics are responsible for only about 1/3 of the cases of autoimmunity. The other 2/3 come from the environment such as genetically modified foods, toxic chemicals, and chronic infections and also from substances excreted by fat cells. Dr. Vojdani emphasized that gliadin in our foods has become one of the major factors of driving autoimmune diseases up in the last few decades. It is the immune cells, called T cells that will determine whether our own cells are considered “self” or whether they are considered “foreign” and are attacked as they are in autoimmune diseases such as Celiac’s disease, ulcerative colitis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, MS and others.

Las Vegas December 15, 2012v

Las Vegas, December 15, 2012

There are regulatory T cells, which are good and T cells whose genetic material has been changed to become Th17 cells, a kind of “Pac Man” cell that attacks cells inside the body. Altered gut flora (called gut dysbiosis) in connection with a leaky gut syndrome contributes to the formation of these aggressive Th17 cells. It is the combination of gliadin with bowel dysbiosis that drives the development of autoimmune diseases. Behind this is the fact that the gut plays a major role in the normal functioning of the immune system. Normally there is a tight connection between the gut cells that form the lining of the gut so that there is no exposure of immune cells from the blood to the contents of the gut flora. We are fortunate that researchers have developed antibody titer tests for the major food groups and these can be valuable pointers that can be used as a tool during the first two stages of autoimmunity before autoimmune disease causes permanent damage. Using these tests on large population groups researchers have found that common food allergies develop against wheat, dairy products, soy and eggs (as Dr. Pamela Smith remarked and Dr. Thomas Alexander explained in detail).  IG-G, IG-A and IG-E antibody tests can be run from a few blood drops and tested against a whole battery of common foods. This helps the physician to monitor the development and treatment of autoimmune diseases.

Back to the leaky gut and obesity. The obesity wave in North America and the rest of the world started when the newly patented Clearfield wheat was introduced. With the higher gliadin in wheat products the balance in the gut was changed, more gliadin entered the body, it bound to the opiate receptors of the appetite center (although it is structurally differently from opium) and caused a hunger for more of the same product. The excess calories –in this case from wheat products- are stored as fat. Fat cells by themselves have their own hormones and inflammatory substances causing diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes and even cancer. Add to this that with obesity the enzyme aromatase from fat cells causes elevated estrogen production, which causes estrogen dominance and results in heart disease and breast cancer in females and heart disease and prostate cancer in males.

So, this is the story of the A4M conference 2012 in a nutshell: Wheat products with the increased gliadin (gluten) content have caused increased leaky gut syndrome in the population since the 1970’s. This is the cause of the wheat addiction, which was further fueled by the obsession of the regulatory bodies to recommend strongly eating according to the food pyramid (a splendid marketing pyramid for wheat consumption, as one of the recommended  products are cereals and wheat).With these findings  the cause of the obesity wave can be clearly seen. Along with obesity comes the flood of autoimmune diseases, which have developed from the action of the Pac Man type TH17 immune cells that attack various tissues in the body. The common denominator in the body is a low grade chronic inflammation that Dr. Aristo Vojdani explained in more detail. This causes blood vessel diseases culminating in high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes and cancer.

There were many other lectures that I attended. Some dealt with bio-identical hormone replacement, some with telomere health, and others with the effect of fitness on an ongoing basis to achieve longevity. Like a red thread lifestyle issues were discussed in almost every lecture. Nutrition is not the only factor in longevity. Exercise on a regular basis can be instrumental in preventing about 50% of disease, especially the main killers like heart attacks, strokes and cancer.

More information on celiac disease:

Last updated Nov. 6, 2014