In non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice, diabetes incidence is reduced by a gluten-free diet. Gluten peptides, such as the compound gliadin, can cross the intestinal barrier and may directly affect pancreatic beta cells. We investigated the effects of enzymatically-digested gliadin in NOD mice, INS-1E cells and rat islets. Six injections of gliadin digest in 6-week-old NOD mice did not affect diabetes development, but increased weight gain (20% increase by day 100). In INS-1E cells, incubation with gliadin digest induced a dose-dependent increase in insulin secretion, up to 2.5-fold after 24 hours. A similar effect was observed in isolated rat islets (1.6-fold increase). In INS-1E cells, diazoxide reduced the stimulatory effect of gliadin digest. Additionally, gliadin digest was shown to decrease current through KATP-channels. A specific gliadin 33-mer had a similar effect, both on current and insulin secretion. Finally, INS-1E incubation with gliadin digest potentiated palmitate-induced insulin secretion by 13% compared to controls. Our data suggest that gliadin fragments may contribute to the beta-cell hyperactivity observed prior to the development of type 1 diabetes.