Study: Gluten-free diets not suggested for people who don’t have celiac disease

LONDON — Going gluten-free is imperative for the small segment of Americans who suffer from Celiac disease, yet exponentially more choose to follow gluten-free diets. A new study, however, finds that eliminating gluten from your diet is not recommended if you’re not a celiac sufferer.

Researchers from Columbia University, Harvard Medical School, and the Harvard School of Public Health say going gluten-free when you don’t need to is not ideal.

Gluten-Free Rice Krispies
Gluten-free diets are all the rage for many healthy eaters, but a new study finds that eliminating gluten from your diet is not recommended if you’re not a celiac sufferer. (Photo credit:

For people with celiac disease (0.7% of the U.S. population), gluten causes inflammation and intestinal damage and is linked to coronary heart disease. On the other hand, many people (including 30% of the U.S. population) have chosen to adopt gluten-free diets in the mistaken belief that gluten is unhealthy or dangerous. Doing so also removes the healthy whole grains that can actually reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular health problems.

The study involved gathering data from 64,714 females and 45,303 males working in the health care industry who had no history of heart disease. Researchers tracked their food habits and coronary heart disease rates every four years over the course of more than 25 years.

Researchers looked specifically for a relationship between gluten consumption and an increase in coronary heart disease.

After taking into account other risk factors, the authors concluded there was no meaningful correlation between eating foods with gluten and developing coronary heart disease. This applied to both male and female participants.

Researchers say gluten-free diets are a risky choice without the advice of a medical professional. No long-term studies have found an association between gluten consumption and the risk of developing coronary heart disease or other chronic health problems in people without celiac or other medical conditions that indicate gluten should be avoided.

The authors note that this study is observational, thus has its limits. Based on this long-term study, however, they caution consumers against restricting or eliminating gluten under the misguided belief that it will reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

They conclude with a warning: “Promotion of gluten-free diets for the purpose of coronary heart disease prevention among asymptomatic people without celiac disease should not be recommended.”

The complete study was published in The BMJ.

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About the Author

Terra Marquette

Terra is a Denver-area freelance writer, editor and researcher. In her free time, she creates playlists for every mood.

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  1. Forget gluten. Grain-free is showing amazing results in those practicing this way of eating. There is no such thing as “healthy whole-grain.”

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