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Gluten Free: Does Glyphosate Cause Celiac Disease? Actually, No!

April 17, 2014
Dr. Peter Olins, Co-founder of Ultimate Gluten Free, provided a must read response to our GMO Answers page debunking the myth that glyphosate causes celiac disease. The herbicide glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup and is frequently mischaracterized as a cause of celiac disease serving as a catalyst for those anti-biotech. From his post, we wanted to highlight how Dr. Olins notably discredits the link between glyphosate and celiac disease.
“A 2013 article by A. Samsel and S. Seneff claims that exposure to the herbicide glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) is the cause of several diseases, especially celiac disease.

“There are literally dozens of claims and ideas proposed in this article, all with very weak evidence or rationale. This article is a series of wild speculations, rather than a logical hypothesis based on the available research….briefly, here are a few examples of why I don’t consider this to be a valid scientific assessment.”

Claim 1: “Celiac disease, and, more generally, gluten intolerance, is a growing problem worldwide, but especially in North America and Europe, where an estimated 5% of the population now suffers from it.” This is not true. While the prevalence of celiac disease has increased, the 2009/2010 estimate of prevalence of nonceliac gluten sensitivity in the general U.S. population is about 0.6% (Ref. 2).

Claim 2: “Celiac disease patients have an increased risk to [sic] Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which has also been implicated in glyphosate exposure.” This is only half true: the risk of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in celiac disease patients has declined dramatically over the past several years (Ref. 3). So, contrary to the authors’ claim, there is no evidence for a link with glyphosate exposure (unless, of course, glyphosate prevents cancer!).

Claim 3: “Glyphosate is known to inhibit cytochrome P450 enzymes.” This is the main theme of the paper, since the authors argue that inhibition of P450 causes some kind of toxicity. This is deceptive! Glyphosate inhibits some P450 enzymes in plants, but, for some reason, the authors fail to mention the most extensive study of these enzymes in mice and humans. In this case, three major human P450 enzymes are not inhibited by glyphosate (Ref. 4).

Claim 4: “Deficiencies in iron, cobalt, molybdenum, copper and other rare metals associated with celiac disease can be attributed to glyphosate’s strong ability to chelate these elements.” Again, this is deceptive. Yes, glyphosate can bind to a variety of metals, but no evidence is presented that this is relevant under real conditions found in the human digestive system.

We encourage you to read Dr. Peter Olins’ response in its entirety here.

Also, don’t forget to visit our Top 10 Consumer Questions About GMOs, Answered page to find the answer to this week’s concern of whether or not GMOs are contaminating organic food crops.