Scientists test mental illness link with gluten

GLUTEN-RICH food, such as bread, could help to trigger schizophrenia in people whose genes make them susceptible to the mental illness, scientists say.

Researchers at UHI, the prospective university of the Highlands and Islands, are carrying out two studies after winning a 300,000 grant from the Schizophrenia Association of Great Britain (SAGB).

One will explore the links between schizophrenia and diabetes and the other will focus on the role of gluten, the protein commonly found in rye, wheat and barley, in schizophrenia and diabetes.

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Professor Ian Megson, head of UHI's Department of Diabetes and Cardiovascular Science in Inverness, said the research is at an early stage, but if the theory is correct and those at risk are identified very early in life, a simple change in diet might prevent diseases developing in some individuals.

Prof Megson said people with a particular genetic make-up had an inability to handle gluten in the normal way and their immune system became unusually active.