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Gluten-free diets could raise risk of coronary disease, study says

A new study found that gluten-free diets could increase cardiovascular risk in people without celiac disease. The study claims that gluten-free diets among people without celiac disease is not associated with risk of coronary heart disease, but such diets result in a low intake of whole grains, which are linked to cardiovascular benefits.

Researchers say that gluten-free diets among people without celiac disease should not be encouraged, as people could miss out on the benefits of whole grains.

Researchers say that gluten-free diets among people without celiac disease should not be encouraged. Image credit: iStock.com / Everyday Health

People with celiac disease, on the other hand, usually have to follow gluten-free diets because the protein found in wheat, barley, and rye can cause them to develop gastrointestinal issues.

Gluten-free diets should not be encouraged to people without celiac disease

The study was published in the BMJ on May 2, and researchers noted that cutting out gluten unless medically necessary can increase a person’s risk of cardiovascular problems. The researchers analyzed data from 64,714 women and 45,303 men who worked in the health industry, each of whom had no history of heart disease.

Subjects were asked to fill a detailed food questionnaire in 1986, and they were required to update it every four years until 2010. The scientists noted that they saw no significant association between gluten intake and heart disease risk.

“Long term dietary intake of gluten was not associated with risk of coronary heart disease. However, the avoidance of gluten may result in reduced consumption of beneficial whole grains, which may affect cardiovascular risk,” wrote the researchers on the study.

Gluten is a storage protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, and it is known to trigger inflammation and intestinal damage in people with celiac disease. According to the researchers, celiac disease is present in 0.7 percent of the U.S. population, and because it is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease, patients are recommended to shift to a gluten-free diet.

Gluten is a storage protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, and it is known to trigger inflammation and intestinal damage in people with celiac disease. Image credit: Thankheavens.com.au

The study claims that currently many people reduce gluten in their diet because they believe that it will lead to general health benefits. A national survey showed that in 2013 nearly 30 percent of adults in the U.S. reported that they were cutting off or reducing their gluten intake. However, the researchers noted that despite the rising trend in gluten restriction, no study has linked gluten with the risk of coronary heart disease in people without celiac disease.

“Although people with and without celiac disease may avoid gluten owing to a symptomatic response to this dietary protein, these findings do not support the promotion of a gluten restricted diet with a goal of reducing coronary heart disease risk,” warned the researchers.

Researchers concluded their study saying that it found no evidence of gluten diets and coronary disease among male and female health professionals analyzed for more than 25 years and that further research is needed to investigate the link between gluten and cardiovascular problems, as their study was merely observational.

Source: The BMJ

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