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7th July 2015 - FAB Special Seminar, Oxford University - Effects of Diet-derived Opioid Peptides from Gluten and Casein

Dr Malav TrivediFAB Research

Start Date: 07 July 2015

End Date:

Duration 4.30 - 6.00pm

Location University of Oxford

Venue Violet Butler Lecture Room, Barnett House, 32 Wellington Square, Oxford OX1 ER

FAB Research is proud to host this special seminar at the Centre for Evidence-Based Intervention, University of Oxford as part of our series of events on 'Guts, Brains and the Nutrition Connection’  


Special Guest Speaker – Dr Malav Trivedi
Research Fellow in Pharmaceutical Sciences, Nova Southeastern University, Florida

Effects of Diet-derived Opioid Peptides from Gluten and Casein on Oxidative stress and Gene Expression:  Potential Implications for Diet and Neurodevelopmental Disorders   

Chair’s Introduction - Dr Alex Richardson
Senior Research Fellow at CEBI, University of Oxford; and Founder Director, FAB Research

In this special seminar, Dr Trivedi will present findings from his recent work. This has revealed

  • a novel mechanistic rationale for the ability of morphine and food-derived opiate peptides (from gluten and casein, found in wheat and milk) to affect synthesis of the antioxidant glutathione, with consequences for oxidative stress, DNA methylation and gene expression.
  • that the genes affected by these food-derived opioid peptides are related to neuroplasticity, as well as to gastrointestinal function, and cellular growth and development.

These findings offer a possible rationale and mechanism for the reported health benefits of a gluten-free/casein-free (GF/CF) diet for some people with neurodevelopmental and/or GI disorders, although further research is needed to investigate this.

Seminar Outline

  • During early development, milk and cereal are usually important and major sources of nutrition for infants.  However, for infants with immunological sensitivities, gastrointestinal (GI) issues or neurodevelopmental disorder, a gluten- and casein-free (GF-CF) diet is often recommended, excluding wheat and most other cereal grains, and all milk products.
  • As yet, there remains no clear scientific rationale for any health benefits from the GF-CF diet.  However, emerging evidence suggests that in many people, intolerance (not classic allergy) to wheat and milk may involve opioid peptides produced during the normal digestion of the proteins gluten and casein.
  • In the case of cows’ milk, the β-casein protein occurs in two major forms, A1 and A2.  The original form, however, is A2 – the type found in the milk of all other mammals, including humans.  A1 and A2 β-casein differ by only one amino acid, but the digestion of A1 milk (and not A2) produces a peptide called β-casomorphin-7 (BCM-7) which - like morphine, and similar peptides derived from gluten grains - activates mu-opioid receptors.
  • Animal studies have shown that consumption of A1 vs A2 beta-casein promotes gut inflammation and slows intestinal transit time, and that these effects are mediated by opioid mechanisms.  Furthermore, a recent randomised controlled trial in humans reported more gastro-intestinal symptoms from A1 vs A2 consumption.
  • In our own latest research studies, using neuronal and intestinal cell lines, we have shown for the first time that BCM-7 (from A1 beta-casein) reduces the availability of the antioxidant glutathione, resulting in elevated oxidative stress.  In addition, we have found that BCM-7 modifies the expression of many different genes, including genes implicated in GI function and neuroplasticity.
  • These ‘epigenetic’ effects of diet-derived opioid peptides (from gluten or A1 beta-casein) have obvious potential relevance to some neurodevelopmental disorders.   An increased vulnerability to ‘oxidative stress’ has long been implicated in both autism and schizophrenia; and possible benefits of GF-CF diets have been proposed in these and related conditions, although good clinical trial evidence of such benefits still remains lacking or inconclusive.
  • The current research is still preliminary, and it is noteworthy that concrete evidence is still being sought for a definitive causal link between A1 beta-casein and the wide range of health conditions in which BCM-7 has now been implicated.  Nonetheless, our findings add to the growing evidence for the importance of nutrition in the epigenetic regulation that helps to shape developmental trajectories, known as ‘nutritional programming’; and they have particular relevance for health conditions involving disturbances of gut, immune and/or brain function.
  • While these findings also offer a potential rationale for the benefits reported for GF-CF diets in some people with autism, other neurodevelopmental conditions, and/or inflammatory bowel disorders, further studies - including human clinical trials - are still needed to elucidate this.


Please register in advance if possible to be sure of a place


Tel: 01296 706445