Voluntary elimination of gluten for healthy people poses health risks
If you suffer from gluten intolerance (celiac disease), you have to eat a consistently gluten-free diet for life to avoid complaints and to avoid long-term consequences. However, many healthy people are now using gluten-free foods. For them, however, this diet brings health disadvantages, as has now been shown in a study.
Avoid foods that contain gluten for life
According to estimates, about one percent of the German population suffers from gluten intolerance (celiac disease). Therapy is not yet available. Only strict abstinence from gluten can help. A wide range of products that do not contain any adhesive protein can now be found in supermarkets. Healthy people often use it too. But gluten-free foods are not healthy for everyone. For example, researchers recently reported that such a diet significantly increases the risk of diabetes. And now scientists in the United States have found that gluten-free food can harm our hearts.
Relationship between a gluten-free diet and heart problems
While some people believe that a gluten-free diet also brings health benefits to people who do not have celiac disease, scientists from Columbia University Medical Center in New York and Harvard Medical School in Boston found that this diet was not beneficial for heart health.
The experts have now published the results of their study in the medical journal "British Medical Journal" ("BMJ").
In their analysis, the researchers also found that a gluten-free diet in people with celiac disease or wheat allergy is associated with an increased risk of heart disease. There is a widespread notion that a gluten-free diet helps those affected, but apparently this does not apply to the human heart, the scientists say.
Those affected can reduce the risk again by changing their diet
About one percent of people in the United States have celiac disease. The excessive autoimmune response can damage the small intestine. Researchers have already found that people with celiac disease have an increased risk of heart disease.
However, this risk can be reduced if those affected reduce their gluten-free diet, explains author Dr. Benjamin Lebwohl from Columbia University Medical Center based on the new study results.
Many people try to avoid consuming gluten
There is actually no evidence that people without celiac disease and similar conditions benefit from reducing gluten intake, the researchers claim. Even so, some people believe that eating gluten increases the risk of negative health effects, including obesity and heart disease.
Most people who followed a gluten-free diet suffered from celiac disease, the study authors explain. A 2013 national survey found that a third of people in the United States are trying to minimize or avoid gluten consumption, the researchers add.
Slightly more heart problems are found in people on a gluten-free diet
For the current study, the scientists examined the data from 121,700 female nurses. A group of 51,529 male subjects was also examined. In addition to the collected data about their health, the participants filled out so-called food questionnaires at regular intervals.
Subjects were divided into five different groups based on the amount of gluten in their diet. The people who consumed the least amount of gluten during this time consumed about three grams of the protein a day, according to the doctors. The people who consumed the highest amounts ingested about eight to ten grams a day.
There were a total of 352 coronary artery-related events per 100,000 people per year. In contrast, the people with the highest consumption of gluten had only 277 incidents per 100,000 people per year.
Does whole grain protect against heart attacks?
When people avoid gluten, they usually eat little whole grain bread in their diet. Exactly that can lead to negative health effects, explains author Andrew Chan from Harvard Medical School in Boston. In particular, the risk of heart attacks seems to decrease when people eat more whole grains.
Various other scientific studies have also shown that a diet with a high percentage of whole grains can protect against diseases.
Chan adds that for people who restrict their diet, this can lead to various deficiencies. These deficiency symptoms can then have a negative impact on the entire body, the study author continues. (as, ad)