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Study shows concerns with gluten-free diets

May 10, 2017

Gluten-free diets are one of the biggest health trends in recent times, yet many doctors fear these diets may be doing more harm than good. 

A new study conducted at Harvard Medical School has found that people who had a low intake of gluten in their diet – but don’t have celiac disease – are not making a healthy choice, in fact their diets may be harming them. Dr Andrew Chan, who led the study, found that those adhering to low-gluten diets ingest smaller amounts of whole grains, actually causing them to be at somewhat of a higher risk of developing heart disease.

(Matthew Mead/Associated Press)

According to Health Canada, roughly two percent of Canadians, or just 300,000 people, actually suffer from celiac disease – a hypersensitivity to gluten which causes digestive difficulties. The driving forces behind the increase in gluten-free diets are individuals who choose to avoid gluten and eliminate it from their diet because they believe it makes them feel better, not for a medical reason. It’s this segment of the population that has an increasing number of doctors across Canada worried about the possible dangers of going gluten-free without first talking to a health professional. 

In fact, eliminating gluten from your diet can actually be quite harmful. Gluten-free packaged foods tend to have higher levels of fat and sugar, which can lead to an increased caloric intake and add to growing obesity concerns. Gluten-free diets may also be lower in nutrients leading to deficiencies in vitamin B, folate and iron. And many gluten-free diets substitute rice and rice flour for wheat, increasing the risk of consuming serum mercury and arsenic which rice absorbs naturally from soil.

While adopting a gluten-free diet may seem like a healthy choice, it can in fact pose significant health risks. Individuals are urged to seek the advice of a health care professional before going gluten-free. 


Media stories on this topic:

CBC News – Healthy hearts: Gluten-free diets don't help people without celiac disease, study finds

CTV News – Wheat dreams: Gluten-free diets don't help non-celiacs, study finds

CBC News – Gluten-free isn't healthy choice for most children, pediatrician says