There’s no evidence that going gluten-free or reducing your consumption of the stuff can provide any long-term health benefits – and yet people looking to overhaul their diet still gravitate towards low-gluten options with alarming regularity.
It cannot be said enough: unless you have the autoimmune disorder coeliac disease (or celiac, as it’s known in North America), or have had a sensitivity to gluten diagnosed by a medical professional, there is no established benefit to going low-gluten or gluten-free. In fact new research suggests that, if anything, it could even put your health at risk.
A Harvard University study looked at medical data from nearly 200,000 patients over a 30-year period and found that those who ate a low-gluten diet had an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The research found that those who ate the most gluten had a 13% lower chance of developing type 2 diabetes than those who ate the least.
There are a few important things to note about this research. First, it’s an observational study, and as such it did not prove a link between low-gluten diets and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. The possible reason behind the association could be because of other nutrients present in foods that also have gluten in them: fibre-rich wholegrains, for example, are already associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.
The length of the 30-year study also bears consideration, as going gluten-free has only become popular fairly recently, so data on trendy gluten abstainers is limited. In fact the study did not look specifically at gluten-free diets at all but compared those high and low in gluten.
However, the takeaway message should undoubtedly remain that for the vast majority of people, there is no proven benefit to going gluten-free. That, and you should eat more fibre. Everyone should eat more fibre – 30g a day, to be more exact.
Here at Coach we’ve been banging the fibre drum for a long time, mainly because of all the health benefits linked with eating enough of it, including a reduced risk of heart disease, some cancers and – yes – our old friend type 2 diabetes. Fibre can also help with weight management, as it makes you feel fuller for longer without adding a load of extra calories.
So keep eating gluten, eat more fibre, live longer (probably).
Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.
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