There is a growing hype about going on a gluten-free diet today. With more and more celebrities swearing by it, people get inspired to raid supermarket aisles for expensive gluten-free alternatives.
Aside from weight loss, one of the purported health benefits of a gluten-free diet is the reduced risk of diabetes, which is considered one of the leading causes of death in the United States.
But a new study from Harvard University says otherwise.
What Is A Gluten-Free Diet
A gluten-free diet strictly eliminates foods with the protein gluten, which is primarily found in grains, such as wheat, barley, rye, and the rye and wheat hybrid triticale.
It's long been established that a gluten-free diet benefits people suffering from celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder in which the body erroneously reacts to gluten by attacking the lining of the small intestine.
There are also individuals who have gluten intolerance or sensitivity despite testing negative for celiac disease. They may experience abdominal pain, painful bouts of diarrhea, bloating, fatigue, headaches, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)-like behaviors.
A Gluten-Free Diet Increases Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes
Delving into three decades' worth of medical data from almost 200,000 patients, the Harvard researchers estimated the participants average gluten intake and probed which patients developed type 2 diabetes, the most common type of diabetes, over time.
Toward the end of the study, they found that nearly 16,000 participants had developed type 2 diabetes. Most of the participants ate less than 12 grams of gluten daily. Within this range, those who had 20 percent more gluten intake had 13 percent less likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes as opposed to those eating only up to 4 grams per day.
One possible explanation of this, according to the experts, is that those on a gluten-free diet had less cereal fiber intake, which is known to have protective benefits against diabetes. Fiber may help slow down digestion, stabilize blood sugar, and lower elevated cholesterol levels.
Research: A Gluten-Free Diet Is Not For Everybody
Contrary to the popular notion, going on a gluten-free diet is not recommended for everyone.
"Gluten-free foods often have less dietary fiber and other micronutrients [such as vitamins and minerals], making them less nutritious and they also tend to cost more. People without celiac disease may reconsider limiting their gluten intake for chronic disease prevention, especially for diabetes," Harvard researcher Dr. Geng Zong, the study's lead author, explained.
The team presented their findings at the American Heart Association's (AHA) Epidemiology and Prevention / Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health 2017 Scientific Sessions meeting in Portland, Oregon.