Why You Shouldn't Go Gluten-Free Unless It's Absolutely Necessary

Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet
For those who have coeliac disease, a gluten-free diet is necessary, and even a lifesaver. But many of us who don't have coeliac have also been hopping on the gluten-free train, mostly due to prevailing myths that eliminating gluten will lead to higher energy, quick weight loss, and lower levels of inflammation. However, new research shows that going gluten-free if it's not absolutely necessary for you can actually be harmful for your health.
According to a new study published in the journal BMJ, restricting gluten if you don't actually have an allergy will cut down on your intake of whole grains — which are important for your cardiovascular health. Unless it's medically necessary for you to do so, cutting out gluten can increase your risk for heart problems.
For the study, researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School examined data from 64,714 women and 45,303 men who worked in the health industry, and who had no history of coronary heart disease. The participants in the study filled out a detailed survey about their eating habits in 1986, and updated it every four years until 2010. While the researchers reported seeing no "significant" link between gluten consumption and heart disease risk, they noted that those who limited gluten in their diets also limited their intake of whole grains, "which may actually be associated with adverse cardiovascular outcomes."
"As such, the researchers say the promotion of gluten-free diets among people without coeliac disease should not be encouraged," the researchers wrote.
However, researchers do note that the study is observational, so more research is needed to draw any firm data about gluten and heart disease risk.
Last year, a study found that whole grains may actually help you live longer, and research from earlier this year found that gluten could actually reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes. So it's time we stop giving gluten such a bad rap — unless a gluten-free diet is a lifesaver for you, of course.

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