Gluten-Free Diets May Affect Heart Risk, Study Says

Nixing gluten might not be the fix-all health solution many think it is. According to a recent study published in the British Medical Journal, cutting the amount of gluten in your diet could increase your risk of coronary heart disease. The researchers involved recommend ditching the idea that gluten-free diets are better unless you actually have celiac disease.

Going gluten-free can be a real chore — even setting aside how annoying it makes you at restaurants. That stuff is in everything, from beer to barbecue sauce. Yet thousands of Americans have taken on the challenge of living a gluten-free lifestyle under the impression that it will positively impact their health.

Advocates such as David Perlmutter, MD, author of the popular book Grain Brain, have popularized the idea that carbohydrates are "destroying your brain" and "can cause dementia, ADHD, anxiety, chronic headaches, depression, and much more." But really, the science behind these claims has been under close scrutiny. For patients without a true medical allergy to gluten, the effects may not be as severe or real as these accounts suggest.

This new study seems to be one of the first to propose there may be real health risks associated with eliminating grains and other forms of carbohydrates. The researchers followed over 100,000 people for 26 years; their analysis found that a gluten-free diet did not have any positive effect on lowering heart disease risk. On the contrary, the prevalence of heart disease increased among participants who cut out gluten.

Other studies have shown that diabetes risk increases for those who go gluten-free, as well.

The researchers excluded individuals with celiac disease from the study population — celiac is a genuine and very serious gluten intolerance, and those diagnosed with it obviously should avoid gluten. Luckily, things are getting better for this unfortunate segment of the population — but for the rest of the world, there's no good reason to live a life deprived of great garlic bread.