“Gluten-free” has become a popular term. It seems that foods without gluten are healthier, and many people start choosing gluten-free foods when they go to groceries.
But gluten-free is never a lifestyle choice like vegetarian or vegan. It is a necessary food choice for people who have celiac disease.
This means for people with that disease, they have to eat foods without gluten.
What is gluten? And what is celiac disease?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and sometimes oats—ingredients often used in breads, pastas, and desserts.
Celiac disease is a health condition when the body’s natural defense system reacts to gluten by attacking the lining of the small intestine.
People with this disease cannot eat foods containing gluten, or their small intestine can be severely damaged.
Without a healthy intestinal lining, the body cannot absorb the nutrients it needs. The person may suffer from chronic fatigue, anemia, fragile bones, depression and anxiety.
It is important to note that some people get gas, diarrhea or bloating after eating gluten. These symptoms are more likely to be intolerance to the protein or a wheat allergy, which is different from celiac disease.
Celiac disease is hard to diagnose, and sometimes the person may suffer years without knowing it is celiac disease.
Research shows that in the world there are about 1% of people have the disease (similar in the US), and that more than 80% of them haven’t been diagnosed.
If you don’t have celiac disease, can you have a gluten-free diet?
Yes, you can, although there are no obvious health benefits for that choice.
In fact, recent studies have shown that gluten-free diets may bring some health problems.
One study published in Epidemiology shows that people who eat a gluten-free diet may be at higher risk for increased exposure to arsenic and mercury.
The toxic metals can lead to cardiovascular disease, cancer and neurological issues.
Why does this happen? Because gluten-free products often contain rice flour as a substitute for wheat. Rice is known to bioaccumulate certain toxic metals, including arsenic and mercury from fertilizers, soil or water.
Researchers from University of Illinois At Chicago checked the data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
They found a link between gluten-free diet and biomarkers of toxic metals in blood and urine.
People who reported eating gluten-free had higher concentrations of arsenic in their urine, and mercury in their blood, than those who did not.
The arsenic levels were almost twice as high for people eating a gluten-free diet, and mercury levels were 70 percent higher.
Another study from Harvard University shows that low gluten diets are linked to higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
This is because gluten-free foods often have less dietary fiber and vitamins and minerals, making them less nutritious and beneficial.
One previous study has shown that dietary fiber is good for people with type 2 diabetes and may help reduce diabetes risk.
The study shows that people in the highest 20% of gluten consumption had a 13% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those with the lowest daily gluten consumption.
Of course, gluten-free diets have some health benefits.
One study reported by American Academy of Neurology finds that gluten-free diets may help people with neuropathic pain.
Gluten sensitivity has been associated with peripheral neuropathy, a condition in which a person’s peripheral nerves become damaged.
When a person has nerve pain that can’t otherwise be explained, and has a sensitivity to gluten, the diagnosis might be gluten neuropathy.
If this is the case, then avoiding gluten may be a good choice. The researchers show that people who were following a gluten-free diet were more likely to be free of pain than people who did not follow a strict gluten-free diet.
To summarize, gluten-free foods are necessary for people with celiac disease and may be beneficial to people who suffer from neuropathic pain.
But if you don’t have these health conditions, there is no need to choose gluten-free foods. Sticking to gluten-free foods may bring some health risks, such as type 2 diabetes and excessive exposure to toxic metals.
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