A small percentage of individuals are intolerant to gluten and are required to adopt gluten-free diets, such as those with Celiac disease. Recently however, gluten-free diets have become somewhat of a fad, with people who are gluten-tolerent still choosing not to consume it.
Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, and rye, and is therefore incorporated in many baked products such as breads, cookies, muffins, and donuts.
While a lack of evidence already exists regarding any health benefits associated with a gluten-free diet, researchers at Harvard University have now found a correlation between a gluten-free diet and an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. That is, individuals who follow a gluten-free diet are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes.
Dr. Geng Zong, lead author of the study and research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard explains,
“We wanted to determine if gluten consumption will affect health in people with no apparent medical reasons to avoid gluten. Gluten-free foods often have less dietary fiber and other micronutrients, making them less nutritious and they also tend to cost more.”
The study looked at about 200,000 individuals over a 30-year time span (1984 to 2014), and found that participants who ate the most gluten had lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. The researchers believe this may be due to the fact that participants who consumed less gluten also tended to eat less cereal fiber, which is known for protecting against the development of Type 2 diabetes.
Even after considering the effect of eating cereal fiber, the study found that individuals in the top 20% of gluten consumption (not including cereal fiber) had a 13% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, compared to individuals who consumed the least amount of gluten daily.
“People without Celiac disease may reconsider limiting their gluten intake for chronic disease prevention, especially for diabetes,” Zong concludes.