Gluten-Free Diets Don’t Lower Risk of Heart Disease

Gluten-free diets are popular these days, but a new study finds that avoiding gluten won’t lower your risk of heart disease.

In fact, the researchers say that gluten-free diets could pose health concerns because people who go gluten free tend to lower their intake of whole grains — an ingredient that is linked with a lower risk of heart disease.

For this reason, “the promotion of gluten-free diets among people without celiac disease should not be encouraged,” the researchers concluded in their article, published today (May 2) in the medical journal BMJ. Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that makes people sick if they eat gluten.

Still, for people who have gluten-sensitivity — meaning they don’t have celiac disease, but they experience abdominal pain or other problems when they eat gluten — it is reasonable to restrict gluten intake, with some precautions, said study researcher Dr. Andrew T. Chan, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston. “It is important to make sure that this [gluten restriction] is balanced with the intake of non-gluten containing whole grains, since these are associated with a lower risk of heart disease,” Chan told Live Science. [7 Tips for Moving Toward a More Plant-Based Diet]

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. In people with celiac disease, the protein triggers an immune reaction that damages the lining of the small intestine.

Some people without the condition adopt the diet in the belief that gluten-free diets are generally healthier. But no long term studies have examined whether gluten affects the risk of chronic conditions such as coronary heart disease, in people without celiac disease, the researchers said.

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SOURCE: Rachael Rettner