(NaturalNews) A landmark study, conducted by researchers from the University of Belgrade, Serbia, and published in the journal Clinical Biochemistry in 2009, suggested that treatment with antioxidants may be able to significantly reduce the symptoms of celiac disease.
Celiac disease is a serious, incurable condition that afflicts approximately 1 percent of children and 1.2 percent of adults across the United States. People with celiac disease suffer severe and potentially dangerous digestive reactions to gluten, the major protein found in wheat and many other grains.
"It is generally accepted that the activation of the immune system by gluten peptides is responsible for pathogenesis and progression of celiac disease," the researchers wrote.
"In the last decade the results of several investigations showed that gluten corrupts the ... antioxidant balance in intestinal mucosa, probably by an overproduction of free radicals."
To further investigate this connection between celiac disease, free radicals and antioxidants, the researchers performed intestinal biopsies on 39 children with either active or silent celiac disease and on 19 healthy controls of equivalent age. The researchers found that children with both forms of celiac disease had significantly lower levels of the antioxidant known as glutathione, while markers of antioxidant activity were significantly higher.
The "master" antioxidant
The low observed levels of glutathione are particularly significant, because this chemical is often referred to as a "master" antioxidant, responsible for donating electrons to other antioxidants to increase their free-radical-fighting abilities. The findings of Clinical Biochemistry suggest that in patients with celiac disease, gluten may induce a flood of free radicals in the intestines. This flood is so overwhelming that it completely strips the body's reserves of glutathione, thereby crippling the effectiveness of all the body's other antioxidants and leading to increased oxidative damage and stress in the digestive system.
This suggests that a diet high in antioxidants could help reduce the severity of celiac symptoms, the researchers said.
"Oxidative stress is an important factor in the pathogenesis of celiac disease," they wrote. "The antioxidant capacity of celiac patients is significantly reduced, mostly by a depletion of glutathione. Natural antioxidants and appropriate dietary supplements could be important complements to the classic therapy of celiac disease."
The research does not suggest that a higher antioxidant intake would enable people with celiac disease to eat gluten, merely that it would reduce the symptoms of the disease.
Boost your superfood intake
All people can improve their health by boosting their intake of antioxidant-rich foods. Studies have shown that berries and fruits are among the foods highest in antioxidants, particularly goji berries, acai berries, pomegranates, blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, raspberries, strawberries, cherries, and apples. In general, the more deep red or purple the color, the higher the antioxidant content.
Dried fruits are also high in antioxidants, with raisins and prunes ranking nearly as high as acai berries. Artichokes are the most antioxidant-rich vegetables, followed by green leafy vegetables and Russet potatoes. Among legumes, black and kidney beans are the richest in antioxidants.
Other antioxidant-rich foods include nuts, whole grains, quinoa, green tea, coffee and dark cocoa.