While the 1 percent of the population with celiac disease should absolutely follow a gluten-free diet, millions of Americans are still going gluten-free because of perceived health benefits.
This is likely due to the massive and quickly growing gluten-free food industry pushing their products as “the healthier version.”
In a Harvard study that followed more than 110,000 adults from 1986 to 2010, the relationship between gluten intake and heart disease was evaluated. Each participant was given a comprehensive 131-item food questionnaire every four years during this study.
The researchers concluded that a gluten-free diet does not help your heart, and may even hurt it!
The leader of the study, Dr. Andrew Chan, said,
For the vast majority of people who can tolerate it, restricting gluten to improve your overall health is likely not to be a beneficial strategy. (1,2)
In this study, they found that the difference in heart disease risk was about the same for the folks who ate the most gluten and those who ate the least amount of gluten – suggesting that the amount of gluten you ate does not play a role in heart disease risk.
When the researchers dug deeper and adjusted the study for the amount of refined grains that were eaten in the high-gluten group, the heart disease risk soared. Refined grains lack heart-healthy fiber, which abounds in healthy whole wheat.
When they adjusted their findings for intake of refined grains, the group that ate the least amount of gluten had a 15% higher risk of heart disease. (1,2)
It’s Not Wheat… It’s Processed Foods!
Wheat has been found guilty without a fair trial. Refined grains, as do all refined and processed foods, have a high glycemic index, can be inflammatory and pose serious health risks. Whole wheat, however, has been linked to lower dietary inflammation, reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease in study after study. (3-9)
In fact, in similar observational studies of almost 200,000 people, researchers have found that the people who ate the most whole grains had lower risk of getting type 2 diabetes compared to those who ate the most refined grains. (3,4)
In another study, replacing refined grains with whole grains lowered type 2 diabetes risk. (8,9)
Gluten-Free Diets Could Compromise Your Immune System
Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of a gluten-free diet is the growing body of evidence potentially linking a gluten-free diet to a compromised immune system.
I’ll highlight 3 studies here:
- In one study, mercury levels were four times higher in those that ate a gluten-free diet compared to wheat-eaters. (10)
- In another study, beneficial gut microbes decreased and harmful microbes increased in gluten-free-eaters compared to wheat-eaters. (11)
- In another study, the activity of NK cells (also known as killer cells) was significantly higher in wheat-eaters compared to gluten-free eaters. (12) This is significant as NK cells constitute our bodies’ frontline defense system.
While researchers at Harvard and UCLA do not see any health benefits of being gluten-free if you are not celiac, they do concede that some folks do not feel well when they consume gluten-rich grains.
The reasons behind this – especially why you may not feel well when you eat wheat and other grains – are well-documented in my newest book, Eat Wheat.
With 605 scientific references, I’ll show you how the past 60 years of processed foods have greatly compromised our digestive systems, resulting in the gluten-sensitivity concerns we see today.
In Eat Wheat, I troubleshoot every aspect of the digestive process, ultimately offering strategies to naturally fortify your digestive strength.