Gluten-free diets have become fashionable in the last few years, but new research suggests they could be bad for your health.
A team of researchers found that people who follow gluten-free diet favoured by the likes of blogger Ella Mills and actress Gwyneth Paltrow may be putting their health at risk because they are not eating whole grains, which are known to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Researchers said there was a perception among medical professionals and people in general that gluten, found in foods like bread and beer, may “increase the risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome, neuropsychiatric symptoms, and cardiovascular risk among healthy people”.
But their study found no significant association between gluten intake and the risk of heart disease.
The team from Harvard Medical School and Columbia University assessed the relationship between gluten and the risk of chronic conditions such as coronary heart disease.
They analysed data from 64,714 female and 45,303 male US health professionals with no history of coronary heart disease and found that, over a 26-year follow-up, consuming foods containing gluten had no significant association with the risk of heart disease.
They concluded: “The avoidance of gluten may result in reduced consumption of beneficial whole grains, which may affect cardiovascular risk.
“The promotion of gluten-free diets among people without coeliac disease should not be encouraged.”
Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, barley and rye. It is found in regular pasta, beer, cakes, breakfast cereals, most types of bread, certain types of sauces and some types of ready meals.
The researchers said their message is for people who do not have coeliac disease – a common digestive condition where the small intestine becomes inflamed and unable to absorb nutrients due to an adverse reaction to gluten.
The study is published in the British Medical Journal.