Low Gluten Diets Linked to Higher Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

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13 Mar 2017 --- According to research presented by the American Heart Association, eating more gluten may be associated with a lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. The new findings contradict the idea that by avoiding foods containing gluten, non- celiac consumers could improve their overall health.

Recent years have seen the gluten free industry grow hugely, despite only a small percentage of the population not being able to tolerate gluten due to Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

The trend is still holding strong, and 2015 and 2016 have been mammoth years for the gluten free industry. According to Innova Market Insights, 2016 product launches in the gluten-free category occurred at a very similar rate when compared to 2015, a benchmark year for the trend, while a 0.5% increase in gluten-free products was seen in the health passive market. 

However, for people without medical conditions associated with gluten, there is lack of evidence that reducing gluten consumption provides long-term health benefits, and medical experts have previously shunned the diet as a weight loss or management technique.

Geng Zong, Ph.D., a research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, explained, that the researchers, “wanted to determine if gluten consumption will affect health in people with no apparent medical reasons to avoid gluten.”

“Gluten-free foods often have less dietary fiber and other micronutrients, making them less nutritious and they also tend to cost more,” he said.

“People without Celiac disease may reconsider limiting their gluten intake for chronic disease prevention, especially for diabetes.” 

Micronutrients are dietary components such as vitamins and minerals. The long-term observational study found that most participants had gluten intake below 12 grams/day, and within this range, those who ate the most gluten had lower Type 2 diabetes risk during thirty years of follow-up. 

Study participants who ate less gluten also tended to eat less cereal fiber, a known protective factor for Type 2 diabetes development. 

After further accounting for the potential effect of cereal fiber, individuals in the highest 20 percent of gluten consumption had a 13 percent lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in comparison to those with the lowest daily gluten consumption (approximately fewer than 4 grams). 

The researchers estimated daily gluten intake for 199,794 participants in three long-term health studies — 69,276 from the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS), 88,610 from the Nurses’ Health Study II (NHSII) and 41,908 from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS) — from food-frequency questionnaires completed by participants every two to four years. 

The average daily gluten intake in grams was 5.8 grams per day, and major dietary sources were pastas, cereals, pizza, muffins, pretzels, and bread

Over the course of the study, which included 4.24 million person-years of follow-up from 1984-1990 to 2010-2013, 15,947 cases of Type 2 diabetes were confirmed. 

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