Posted on Wednesday, March 15th, 2017 at 7:00 am
There are two kinds of people who eat a gluten-free diet. In one group, there are people who are doing it because they have celiac disease or an allergy or intolerance to foods that contain gluten. In the other group, are people who chose a gluten-free diet because they think it will make them lose weight. A recent study about gluten-free diets is going around the internet, but is being presented in a misleading way.
A person who has been diagnosed with celiac disease must avoid consuming gluten. Their doctor will recommend these people eat a gluten-free diet because it is the only form of treatment for celiac disease. Gluten will actually cause damage to the intestines of a person who has celiac disease.
Other people, who have been diagnosed with an allergy to wheat, rye and/or barley, will also hear their doctor recommend that they stay away from gluten. The same is so for those with a diagnosed gluten intolerance.
Other people choose a gluten-free diet because they believe it will help them to lose weight. This group doesn’t have to avoid gluten. (Their bodies can safely process it.) Typically, if you visit a doctor and ask for advice on how to lose weight – the doctor is going to suggest getting more exercise and avoiding sugar (not gluten.)
A study done by researchers from the University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Michigan, and Dartmouth University is being passed around the internet. Unfortunately, some people are presenting the results of that study in a misleading way.
You may have heard that a gluten-free diet results in increased levels of arsenic and mercury – two toxic metals that can lead to cardiovascular disease, neurological problems, cancer, and other health problems. What isn’t being emphasized is that the result came from a relatively small sample size of people who ate a gluten-free diet.
The study includes 7,471 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Of those people, only 73 reported being on a gluten-free diet. Tests of urine and blood found that arsenic levels were almost twice as high in the gluten-free group compared with the much larger group that ate gluten. The same tests found mercury levels were higher in the gluten-free group.
There are two things you need to understand about these results. One, more studies need to be done before we can conclude that a gluten-free diet poses a significant health risk. Two, there is speculation that the health risks have to do with the amount of rice that people who eat gluten-free are consuming – but this has not yet been proven.