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Going Gluten-Free Does Not Lower Heart Disease Risk, Study Says

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Gluten-free diets have been some of the most-discussed and often controversial topics when it comes to nutrition. There are those who recommend it, while others call going gluten-free a danger instead of a benefit to those who don’t have celiac disease.

Researchers have come up with yet another reason to keep eating gluten, if there is no immediate need to avoid it: gluten-free diets do not lower a person’s risk for heart disease, but actually increase it. People who don’t eat gluten tend to decrease less amounts of grains, which has been linked to lower heart disease risks, Live Science reports.

Due to this, the study says that “the promotion of gluten-free diets among people without celiac disease should not be encouraged.” Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where patients fall ill upon consuming gluten. Gluten is a protein in wheat, barley and rye. In people with celiac disease, gluten sets off an immune reaction that destroys the small intestine’s lining.

For those who are gluten-sensitive, but don’t have celiac disease – meaning they suffer from abdominal pain and other symptoms when ingesting gluten – it’s advisable to restrict, rather than completely avoid, gluten, according to Dr. Andrew T. Chan, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and lead author on the study.

Chan said,

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.

Those without celiac disease or gluten sensitivity go on gluten-free diets on the belief that these are healthier. But there have been no long-term studies proving the positive effects of not consuming gluten on conditions like heart disease, the researchers pointed out.

The team analyzed data from over 110,000 healthcare professionals in the USA. For 26 years, participants answered questions on the types of food they ate. Based on their answers, the researchers calculated how much gluten each individual consumed. They likewise collected information on whether any of the participants experienced a heart attack, which stood for coronary heart disease in the study.

According to the results of the study, those who ate the most gluten were at no greater risk for a heart attack compared to those who ate the least gluten. The researchers said, “These findings do not support the promotion of a gluten-restricted diet with a goal of reducing coronary heart disease risk.”

The study was published in the journal BMJ.

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