Unless you have coeliac disease, where digested gluten irritates your small intestine, you might be putting subjecting yourself to unintended health risks by switching to a gluten-free diet, new research has found.
Scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School have now warned that being gluten-free could actually be damaging to one’s health as it reduces the consumption of whole grains, which have cardiovascular-health benefits.
The researchers say the risk of heart disease could actually be greater with a gluten-free diet – not because of a lack of gluten, but because going gluten-free tends to reduce the number of whole grains you eat as well, which are known to boost heart health.
“As such, the researchers say the promotion of gluten-free diets among people without celiac disease should not be encouraged,” the study authors wrote.
The researchers analysed data on more than 100,000 people with no history of coronary heart disease, who completed a detailed food questionnaire every few years from 1986 to 2010.
After adjusting the results for influencing factors, they concluded there was no significant association between estimated gluten intake and the risk of developing heart disease.
And going gluten-free can have another unintended consequence: increasing your intake of arsenic and other heavy metals. Cereals, crackers, pastas and other gluten-free products are often made with rice flour.
Consumer Reports’ food safety experts have found that rice and rice-based products can have concerning amounts of arsenic, and recommend minimizing your intake of them.
A recent study published in the journal Epidemiology showed that people on a gluten-free diet had twice the amount of arsenic and 70 percent more mercury in their urine than people who were not.
Also, a study published earlier this year found that going gluten-free can actually increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, based on surveys of almost 200,000 participants for up to four years.
Gluten-free food has become increasingly popular over the last 12 months among people without the disease, with global sales up 12.6 per cent last year, compared to four per cent for packaged foods overall.