In a large study of U.S. health professionals, scientists found that those with the least gluten in their diets actually had a slightly higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes over a few decades.
Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, rye and barely. Gluten-free diets are a must for people with celiac disease. But gluten-free, or at least gluten-light, diets have caught on as a way for anyone to lose weight and improve their health. One recent study found that the number of Americans who say they’ve gone gluten-free tripled between 2009 and 2014.
The new findings are based on nearly 200,000 U.S. health professionals whose health and lifestyle habits were followed over three decades. Over 30 years, just under 16,000 study participants developed type 2 diabetes. The investigators found study participants who ate the least gluten actually had a somewhat higher risk of developing diabetes over time.
Most people consumed no more than 12 grams of gluten each day, with the average being 6 to 7 grams. Those in the top 20% for gluten intake were 13% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, versus those in the bottom 20% - who typically ate fewer than 4 grams of gluten each day, the findings showed.
Lead researcher Geng Zong said his team did try to account for other factors, including people’s exercise habits, weight, typical calorie intake and family history of diabetes. However, lower gluten intake was still tied to a higher type 2 diabetes risk. Zong is a research fellow in nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in Boston.
The study does not prove that limiting gluten somehow causes diabetes, according to Lauri Wright, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Wright, who was not involved in the study, is also director of the doctorate in clinical nutrition program at the University of North Florida, in Jacksonville. The bottom line, according to Wright, is this: Unless you have celiac disease, focusing on the quality of your carbohydrates – rather than gluten avoidance – is the way to go.
The gluten in wheat has increased by 400% since the early 1960s. We all react to gluten, but the severity of the reaction varies greatly. I get a little mucus congestion in the throat and bronchi as the most obvious reaction to exposure.
Lauri Wright is correct in that it is the quality of what you eat rather than what you avoid that counts. All too often I see this play out at the Whole Food Market where customers are loading up on all manner of gluten-free refined carbohydrates. They’re actually increasing their glycemic load rather than reducing it – a recipe for type 2 diabetes.
Wheat is the most common food allergen on the planet. It’s not just the gluten, but any of the proteins or carbohydrates contained in wheat. Wheat is number one because it’s what we consume most frequently. It’s no surprise then that dairy is number two. Lactose or milk sugar is the major issue but again, any of the proteins or carbohydrates can be an allergen. The use of soy and corn round out the top four as their use has skyrocketed in processed foods.
The Bottom Line: (mine, not Lauri’s)
avoid all the refined grains, including those containing gluten. Make sure any grains you consume are whole and as unrefined as possible, then eat them sparingly. Concentrate on fruits and vegetables as your source of carbohydrates and plant fiber.
Source: March 9, 2017 National Institutes of Health
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