Gluten-Free Diets May Boost Diabetes Risk, Study Shows

Melissa Matthews

This article originally appeared on Medical Daily. 

Gluten-free diets may be one of the most popular eating regimens, but a new study says it could be bad for your health.

Research from Harvard University indicates that gluten may help lower the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. In a long-term study, the team found that most people typically ate below 12 grams of gluten per day. Those who ate the most had a decreased chance of developing Type 2 diabetes. Naturally, those who ate less gluten also consumed less cereal fiber, which is known to protect against Type 2 diabetes.  

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A gluten-free pasta product of Italian food company Barilla is offered at a supermarket of Swiss retail group Coop in Zumikon, Switzerland December 13, 2016. Reuters

People who ate the most gluten, in the top 20 percent, had a 14 percent lower risk of developing diabetes than those with the lowest consumption, about four grams or less of gluten per day.

A protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, gluten can make people with a sensitivity or Celiac disease sick. Despite the small population of people suffering from Celiac or gluten sensitivity, the diet has become mainstream.

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“Gluten-free foods often have less dietary fiber and other micronutrients, making them less nutritious and they also tend to cost more," Geng Zong, Ph.D., and research fellow at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, says in a statement. “People without Celiac disease may reconsider limiting their gluten intake for chronic disease prevention, especially for diabetes.”

The team looked at the gluten intake of 199,794 participants.

According to market research firm NDP group, only about 25 percent of people living in a gluten-free home do so because of a food sensitivity or Celiac.  

One reason some believe gluten-free diets are healthy is because they lose weight. But experts say this is likely due to cutting out junk food and not about the actual gluten. If you do eliminate wheat, nutrition specialist Heather Mangieri tells Scientific American to sub in a healthy, naturally gluten-free grain, such as quinoa or buckwheat. 

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