Gluten-free diet should not be encouraged for people without coeliac disease

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Restricting gluten may lead to low intake of heart-healthy whole grains, say experts

The authors of a new study say gluten-free diets should not be promoted for the prevention of coronary heart disease (CHD) among people without coeliac disease. Reduced gluten intake does not reduce CHD risk and may, in fact, result in low intake of whole grains, according to the findings published by the BMJ.

The popularity of low-gluten or gluten-free diets has risen in recent years, partly owing to the belief that gluten can have harmful health effects. Despite the trend, no long-term studies have assessed the relationship between dietary gluten and risk of chronic conditions in people without coeliac disease.

This new study examined the association of long-term intake of gluten with the development of CHD among 64,714 female and 45,303 male health professionals with no history of coronary heart disease. After 26 years of follow-up, no significant association was found between estimated gluten intake and the risk of subsequent CHD. Further analyses suggest that restricting dietary gluten may result in a low intake of whole grains, which are associated with lower cardiovascular risk.

The authors of the observational study say the findings “do not support the promotion of a gluten-restricted diet with a goal of reducing coronary heart disease risk”.

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