Gluten-free diets are on the rise, but the popular trend may be worth doing a little more investigating before determining if it’s right for you. A team of scientists from Harvard and Columbia University have warned that only a very small portion of the population needs to be on the diet, and research shows that heart problems could arise if people go out of their away to avoid gluten.
Whole-grain foods generally contain gluten and are usually found in bread, cereal, pasta, crackers, and other baked products. Over the recent years, there’s been a building image that this gluten is bad for overall health. Grocery stores and restaurants have been pushing their gluten-free products to attract these consumers. People can find specific aisles that just include gluten-free food, and restaurants will generally mark their items with a notation indicating that whole grains are not included.
For some that suffer from celiac disease, avoiding gluten is a necessity. The disease is autoimmune and can prevent the absorption of nutrients. This can cause fertility problems, osteoporosis, frequent diarrhea, bloating, and more. It’s an issue that needs to be diagnosed and it affects one percent of the population.
With a 12.6 percent rise of the purchase in gluten-free food in 2016, many more people are opting for the products instead of meeting a requirement. There’s the notion that going gluten-free is adapting to a healthier lifestyle, but Michael Gregor of Nutrition Facts explains that missing out on whole grains could lead to serious issues that could have been avoided in the first place.
"[Whole] grains—including the gluten grains wheat, barley and rye—are health promoting, linked to reduced risk of coronary heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and other chronic diseases."
Researchers back up those claims in a report posted in the British Medical Journal last month. There’s been a misconception that choosing more gluten-free foods can lower the chances of obesity or keep our hearts healthy, but it turns out that it could be the exact opposite for people that don’t struggle with celiac disease.
In their study, they looked at the gluten intake in correlation with coronary heart disease. They stated that back in 2013, nearly a third of the population were at least attempting to avoid gluten-free food. Based on food questionnaires dating back to 1986, there was no evidence to link gluten intake to coronary heart disease. In fact, not having a proper intake of whole grains increases overall cardiovascular problems, and recommended that “promotion of gluten-free diets among people without celiac disease should not be encouraged.”
Gluten-free products have their place and roughly one out of a hundred people will need them for everything to run smoothly. However, for most people, they could be doing more harm than good by avoiding whole grain options. They will not absorb the necessary vitamins and minerals to keep their heart healthy. It’s now up to those that promote gluten-free products to give consumers the full story.