Avoiding that slice of pizza as part of your gluten-free diet may not be as healthy as you think. In fact, non-celiac adults who avoid gluten may be harming their heart health, according to a recent study by Harvard Medical School.
Gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, causes inflammation and intestinal harm in those with celiac disease, a condition present in about 0.7 percent of the U.S. population, the study says.
Though less than 1 percent of Americans need to avoid gluten, gluten-free fad diets have been rising in popularity over the years as part of a weight loss and health craze. From 2009 to 2010, 0.52 percent of the population without celiac disease maintained a gluten-free diet, but by 2013 to 2014, the rate tripled to 1.69 percent, The Kitchn reports.
The Harvard Medical School study, which tracked the eating habits of 64,714 women and 45,303 men over 26 years, found that long-term avoidance of gluten in adults sometimes resulted in the reduced consumption of heart-healthy whole grains, which could affect cardiovascular risk.
"It appeared that those individuals who consumed the lowest levels of dietary gluten had a 15 percent higher risk of heart disease," study leader Andrew Chan, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, tells CBS.
“The promotion of gluten-free diets among people without celiac disease should not be encouraged,” the study concludes.
In the findings published in BMJ, Chan admits that further research is necessary to prove the cause-and-effect correlation of the study.
He also advises consuming more fibrous and heart-healthy grains like oats and brown rice, for those trying to pursue a gluten-free diet without raising health concerns.
So go ahead and eat that pasta and bread—it’s good for your soul and your heart.
Please check your inbox to verify your email address.