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Global Intensification of N Fertilisation Increases Allergenic Proteins and May Spread Coeliac Pathology

22 Pages Posted: 8 Oct 2019

See all articles by Josep Penuelas

Josep Penuelas

Republic of Argentina - Global Ecology Unit (CREAF-CSIC-UAB)

Albert Gargallo-Garriga

Republic of Argentina - Global Ecology Unit (CREAF-CSIC-UAB)

Ivan Jannssens

Republic of Argentina - Global Ecology Unit (CREAF-CSIC-UAB)

Philippe Ciais

Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement (LSCE)

Michael Obersteiner

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

Karel Klem

Czech Academy of Sciences

Otmar Urban

Czech Academy of Sciences

Jordi Sardans

Republic of Argentina - Global Ecology Unit (CREAF-CSIC-UAB)

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Abstract

Background: Fertilisation of cereal crops with nitrogen (N) has increased in the last five decades. In particular, the fertilisation of wheat crops increased by nearly one order of magnitude from 1961 to 2010, from 9·84 to 93·8 kg N ha-1 y -1 . We hypothesized that this intensification of N fertilisation would be associated with the increased pathology of coeliac disease in human populations. An increase in the per capita intake of gliadin proteins, the group of gluten proteins principally responsible for the development of coeliac disease, would be the responsible factor.

Methods and Findings: We conducted a global meta-analysis of available reports that supported our hypothesis: wheat plants growing in soils receiving higher doses of N fertilizer have higher total gluten, total gliadin, α/β-gliadin, γ-gliadin and ω-gliadin contents and higher gliadin transcription in their grain. We thereafter calculated the per capita annual average intake of gliadins from wheat and derived foods and found that it increased from 1961 to 2010 from approximately 2·4 to 3.8 (+ 1·4 ± 0·18 kg, mean ± SE), i.e. increased by 58 ± 7·5%. Finally, we found that this increase was positively associated with the increase in the rates of coeliac disease in all the available studies with temporal series of coeliac disease.

Interpretation: The impacts and damage of over-fertilisation have been observed at an environmental scale (e.g. eutrophication and acid rain), but a potential direct effect of over-fertilisation is thus also possible on human health (coeliac disease).

Funding Statement: European Research Council Synergy grant ERC-SyG-2013-610028 IMBALANCE-P, the Spanish Government grant CGL2016-79835-P, the Catalan Government grant SGR 2017-1005, and the Czech SustEs project (CZ.02.1.01/0.0/0.0/16_019/0000797).

Declaration of Interests: The authors of this paper have no competing interests.

Suggested Citation

Penuelas, Josep and Gargallo-Garriga, Albert and Jannssens, Ivan and Ciais, Philippe and Obersteiner, Michael and Klem, Karel and Urban, Otmar and Sardans, Jordi, Global Intensification of N Fertilisation Increases Allergenic Proteins and May Spread Coeliac Pathology (January 10, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3463292 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3463292

Josep Penuelas (Contact Author)

Republic of Argentina - Global Ecology Unit (CREAF-CSIC-UAB) ( email )

Bellaterra, Catolonia 08193
Spain

Albert Gargallo-Garriga

Republic of Argentina - Global Ecology Unit (CREAF-CSIC-UAB)

Bellaterra, Catolonia 08193
Spain

Ivan Jannssens

Republic of Argentina - Global Ecology Unit (CREAF-CSIC-UAB)

Bellaterra, Catolonia 08193
Spain

Philippe Ciais

Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement (LSCE)

Point Courrier 129
Gif-Sur-Yvette, 91191
France

Michael Obersteiner

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

Schlossplatz 1
Laxenburg, A-2361
Austria

Karel Klem

Czech Academy of Sciences

Brno, CZ-60300
Czech Republic

Otmar Urban

Czech Academy of Sciences

Brno, CZ-60300
Czech Republic

Jordi Sardans

Republic of Argentina - Global Ecology Unit (CREAF-CSIC-UAB)

Bellaterra, Catolonia 08193
Spain

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