You might have heard the term “gluten-free”, especially if you’re health conscious. In fact, you may equate the phrase with healthier food options. However, new reports suggest that a gluten deficient diet may not necessarily be better for you. Scientists have warned that the growing numbers of people adopting gluten-free diets may face a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, a disease caused by inadequate production of insulin or the body’s inability to react appropriately to insulin. Though Type 2 diabetes is most commonly associated with obesity, the new study suggests that a lack of micro-nutrients might also be a contributing factor.
Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, which means a gluten-free diet often translates to removing wheat-based products such as standard flour, bread, cakes and so on or sourcing alternatives to these food items which swap the wheat-based element with another ingredient. For example, many gluten-free recipes requiring flour swap the traditional wheat-based flour for other flours such as coconut flour, rice flour or oat flour.
These findings come from a Harvard University study which suggested that low gluten consumption, or total exclusion of gluten from one’s diet, could raise the risk of diabetes by up to 13%. A gluten-free diet is most associated with people who suffer from celiac disease – an auto-immune disease caused by an intolerance to gluten. It is important to note that this disease is not a food allergy.
However, it is not only celiac sufferers who are embracing gluten-free diets. Only around 1% of people are genuinely gluten-intolerant. However, according to 2015 figures, 29% of adult Americans – 70 million people – say they are trying to cut back on gluten, while YouGov reports that 60% of UK adults have bought gluten-free products and 10% of households contain someone who believes gluten is bad for them. It is this group of people – those who voluntarily embark on gluten-free diets – that are being warned that doing so could raise their risk of diabetes.