Wheat has been a staple of the human diet for over 10,000 years. Further, it has been a staple of the trader's portfolio for over 100 years now, since the Minneapolis Grain Exchange was established and began trading in wheat, oats and corn in 1881. Increasingly, though, more and more people are developing gluten sensitivities or allergies according to a study written about in an article in the Wall Street Journal in which gluten triggers an immune response like an enemy invader in some modern humans.
According to the study, as much as 6% of the U.S. population suffers from gluten sensitivities and another 1%-2% suffer from wheat allergies or celiac disease. While celiac disease is the worst of the three because it flattens the villi, the tiny fingers in the intestines needed to soak up nutrients from food, and can lead to malnutition or even death, symptoms ranging from bloating and constipation to depression and ataxia have been reported for gluten sensitivities. Some parents of autistic children have even claimed a dramatic improvement in function after removing gluten from their diets.
Tests have shown celiac disease in particular is more prevelant today than as little as 50 years ago. In a study comparing modern blood samples with those from 50 years ago, the modern ones had a four-fold increase in the incidence of celiac disease.
To date, a gluten-free diet has been the only prescription for gluten sensitivities and the market for gluten-free foods grew to $2.6 billion last year.
So what does all this mean for traders? While wheat was once the staple of many diets, if the trend continues, other foods will increasingly take that spot. That's not to say this will happen overnight, but instead is an emerging medical trend to be aware of.