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Going gluten-free if you don’t have coeliac disease could be bad for your health

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Going gluten-free is one of the biggest food trends in the world right now (let’s not mention clean eating), with almost 15 million #glutenfree posts taking over our Instagram feeds and a reported 12.6% rise in sales of gluten-free foods in 2016.

However, despite the general notion that a gluten-free diet is a healthy one, new research published in the British Medical Journal yesterday suggests that eliminating gluten from your diet when you don’t need to could actually do more harm than good.

The research, undertaken by scientists from Harvard and Columbia University, concluded that “the promotion of gluten-free diets among people without coeliac disease should not be encouraged”.

Coeliac disease, which the NHS estimates affects around 1% of the population, is an autoimmune disease caused by an adverse reaction to gluten. Symptoms include stomach pain, bloating and diarrhoea when the sufferer eats gluten, which is found in most pastas, breads, cakes and cereals.

While those with coeliac disease are encouraged to avoid eating gluten in order to manage their symptoms, those without the disease could be damaging their health by cutting gluten out of their diets.

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Sales of gluten-free products such as bread rose 12.6% last year

The study, which involved 64,714 women and 45,303 men, all of whom do not suffer from coeliac disease, looked at the long term effects of eating gluten on the participant’s risk of developing coronary heart disease.


Read more: Three cheers for cake: the backlash against clean eating is here


It tracked the participants over 26 years and found that eating gluten did not increase the risk of developing heart disease. However, it also found that avoiding gluten might lead participants to eat fewer whole grains than they need, which could in turn affect cardiovascular health.

This led to the conclusion that avoiding gluten when you don’t have coeliac disease should “not be encouraged”.

Images: iStock

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