Going gluten-free might actually increase your risk of diabetes

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Those gluten-free eaters may have a slight disadvantage when it comes to developing “the diabeetus,” according to new research presented at an annual meeting of the American Heart Association.

Gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, is a major component of baked goods like bread and pasta, and gives the final product a chewy bite. But gluten also happens to show up in foods that provide lots of dietary fiber, along with the minerals and vitamins essential for a healthy body.

But those people who mistakenly think that going gluten-free is “healthier” may end up with higher risk of developing type-2 diabetes, say the researchers. Their study, which analyzed almost 200,000 people from three long-term studies and 4.24 million person-years of follow-up from 1984–1990 to 2010–2013, showed that those in the highest 20% of gluten consumption had a 13% lower risk of diabetes than those with the lowest daily amount eaten, which was less than 4 grams.

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“Gluten-free foods often have less dietary fiber and other micronutrients, making them less nutritious, and they also tend to cost more,” said Geng Zong, Ph.D., a research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “People without Celiac disease may reconsider limiting their gluten intake for chronic disease prevention, especially for diabetes.”

Of course, people who must avoid foods with gluten don’t really have a choice. If you have Celiac disease, which is a serious autoimmune disorder, you need to steer clear of the ingredient. But if you just feel like gluten makes your tummy feel funny, try limiting it, but don’t shy away from whole grains (which offer a lot for optimal health), particularly fiber-rich and gluten-free whole grains, like oats.

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