Buckwheat Flour Cookies with Chocolate

Gluten-Free Fad Diets Might Have a Diabetes Downside

For millions of people who don’t really need a gluten-free diet, eating less gluten might actually have a downside. Research presented at the AHA Epi|Lifestyle meeting yesterday found that people who ate less gluten had a slightly higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The investigators found no difference in the risk of weight gain.

Gluten-Free Facts and Fictions

A gluten-free diet is a no-brainer for someone with celiac disease or confirmed gluten sensitivity.  But gluten-free fad diets have reached far beyond folks with actual gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. Some people falsely believe it will help them lose weight or give them magically better health. The fad diet book Wheat Belly helped to spread that belief.

This new data is a useful reminder that food fads can have a downside. Becoming fixated on demonizing a particular food or nutrient can lead to surprises down the road.

Not the Final Word

This research does not prove that gluten-free diets cause diabetes. All these data show is an association, not a cause and effect relationship. Maybe gluten actually helps to lower diabetes risk. Or maybe people who avoid gluten eat less fiber. But it’s equally possible that something else is confounding these findings. Sorting those questions out will require more definitive research.

Until then, avoid gluten if you must. But unless you have a confirmed sensitivity, cutting gluten is pointless. In fact, it limits your choices for whole grains. And whole grains have real benefits for health.

For the abstract of this study, click here. For further perspective, click here and here.

Buckwheat Flour Cookies with Chocolate, photograph © Olga Popkova / flickr

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March 10, 2017

4 Responses to “Gluten-Free Fad Diets Might Have a Diabetes Downside”

  1. March 10, 2017 at 6:46 am, Jean said:

    Thank you! I am tired of the Gluten Free fad and some whole grain products that have now been reproduced to gluten free unnecessarily.

    Have family members who have the celiac disease they cannot eat gluten and although they appreciate more food choices now think the “fad” is over the top!

    Love my gluten give me pancakes please!

    • March 10, 2017 at 7:34 am, Ted said:

      Thanks, Jean!

  2. March 10, 2017 at 1:33 pm, amy lee said:

    how can I be part of the daily blog?
    thank you!

    • March 10, 2017 at 2:23 pm, Ted said:

      Thanks for your interest, Amy. I will be in touch to discuss the possibilities.