Gluten-free diets are all the rage these days. Some adopt the diet because of a newly-diagnosed allergy or medical condition, and others do it for health and wellness reasons. Snack foods and restaurants alike have begun labelling and even highlighting which items are gluten-free for those being mindful of their intake. Regardless of the reason for a gluten-free diet, researchers have been scrambling to learn the effects of eliminating gluten on the body as a whole, especially in the field of cardiology.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes problems in the small intestines when the microvilli, which are supposed to absorb nutrients, come in contact with gluten. People with this disease are genetically predisposed to it and are advised by doctors to avoid gluten in its entirety. For those without allergies or diseases, though, the efficacy of the gluten-free diet has come under scrutiny lately.
The heart disease awareness and prevention organization Go Red for Women strongly advises against a gluten-free diet unless an allergy or disease like celiac demands it. On a behavioral level, public health professional Maribet Rivera-Brute worries that dieters see boxes labelled “gluten free” and don’t take stock of other ingredients like salt, sugar, or fats. Instead, dieters merge “gluten free” with “healthy” and reduce their vigilance for other health alerts.
Chemically, a huge recent study has found that gluten-free diets may even be actively harming cardiovascular health and putting dieters at an increased risk of heart disease. A large-scale study was recently published by Dr. Benjamin Lebwohl, of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University Medical Center in New York. After collecting data from nearly 175,000 male and female nurses, researchers divided them into 5 groups based on their reported gluten intake and studied the heart disease patterns within each group. On the whole, the researchers reported that there were no significant differences between any of the groups.
The study found that diets devoid of gluten usually failed to include whole grains, a practice that has been associated with spiking risks of heart disease. Gluten-free diets also tend to result in low levels of vitamin B and fiber, and also leave dieters at increased risk of heavy metal toxicity. It appears that gluten-free diets should be left to those who are medically required to do so. While being conscious of your gluten intake will help you keep tabs on carbs and sneaky high-calorie snacks, it’s inadvisable to cut it all the way out unless you absolutely must.