How gluten-free diets can affect health?

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Gluten is a cereal protein. Wheat, barley, rye, oat, and foods of these cereals contain gluten. Some individuals have difficulties in digesting gluten or they cannot digest it at all depending on genetic and environmental factors. This digestion problem may lead to gluten enteropathy or gluten intolerance, also known as celiac disease.

Celiac Disease (Gluten Enteropathy)

Coeliac disease is an allergic digestive system disease. In coeliac disease cases, damage occur on small intestine walls or villus which are responsible for the digestion. These damages cause inflammation and stomach-intestine problems.

Gluten is eliminated from the diet of individuals diagnosed with coeliac and symptoms of the disease are treated. Food containing wheat, barley, rye and oat as well as other processed food that may contain gluten are avoided for a gluten-free diet.

Gluten Intolerance

Gluten intolerance does not lead to any intestine damage or allergic reaction as is the case with coeliac disease; however, digestive system disorders may arise and reduce the quality of life when this problem is not noticed. Individuals with gluten intolerance can observe the digestive system reactions that occur when they consume gluten and apply a gluten-free diet upon consulting to a doctor about these symptoms. Individuals with gluten intolerance may not need a strict approach about avoiding food and product with gluten as is done by coeliac patients.

So, what does gluten-free diet affect healthy individuals?

Following a gluten-free diet for weight loss or any other reasons may lead to various consequences for healthy individuals who do not suffer from gluten enteropathy or intolerance.

Recently, the results have been published about a large-scale research that studies about effects of the gluten-free diet on chronic disease risks for individuals without coeliac disease. As a result of the study conducted at Harvard University on more than 110,000 healthy individuals for a period of 25 years, it has been shown that there is no significant difference between the heart attack frequency of individuals with the highest and lowest gluten consumption; however, the risk of developing heart diseases increases for individuals who do not consume gluten, i.e. whole grains. American Heart Society held a meeting in 2017 and reported that diabetes risk may be increased by 13%.

In gluten-free diets, avoiding the consumption of cereals and whole grain, limiting the fibre and group B vitamins and some minerals may cause insufficiency about some nutritional elements. It is important to consume cereals and especially whole grains that are important for an adequate and balanced nutrition.

Turkish Public Health Institution, Coeliac and Gluten, (August 2017)
Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School, Think twice before going gluten-free, (August 2017)
American Heart Association, Low gluten diets may be associated with higher risk of type 2 diabetes, (August 2017)

Sabri Ülker Foundation