Over the past few years, Americans have been going “gluten-free” in droves. But this latest diet craze isn’t as health conscious as you might think. In fact, new research links a gluten-free diet with increased risk of heart disease, obesity, and metabolic syndrome.
I’ll tell you all about that new evidence in a moment. But first, let’s take a look at gluten itself…
Gluten is a protein found in wheat. And even though it’s been around for 10,000 years, many people now blame it for a variety of common health problems — including diarrhea, bloating, headaches, fatigue, canker sores…you name it.
However, as I reported last fall, recent investigations suggest that glyphosate (the herbicide in Roundup) — which, today, is sprayed on 95 percent of our wheat supply — is likely the real reason why people are experiencing this slew of health problems. Not the gluten.
As it turns out, glyphosate blocks a key metabolic pathway that healthy bacteria need within your microbiome (in your gut). And poisoning the healthy bacteria in your microbiome leads to a host of health problems. Some studies even link glyphosate to cancer.
Plus, since Roundup’s patent expired in 2000, nine different chemical companies, under at least 32 different trademarks, now make products with glyphosate. In total, experts estimate more than 100,000 tons of glyphosate are used each year on crops all over the world.
By comparison, just 1 percent of the population actually has a clear allergy to gluten. The official diagnosis is “celiac disease.” But the popularity of gluten-free diets has grown way beyond the 1 percent.
In my view, the gluten-free craze is just another marketing gimmick that suggests “less is more.” So-called “health food” companies and “nutritionists” push the idea that a restrictive diet, free of an entire class of nutrients, somehow benefits your health.
We’ve been “fed” this same ridiculous idea several times already, with the advent of the sodium-free diet, the fat-free diet, the meat-free diet, and now the gluten-free diet.
And Americans are buying this baloney hook, line, and sinker. In fact, surveys show that 63 percent of consumers believe everyone would benefit from following a gluten-free diet…even the 99 percent without celiac disease.
But clearly, that belief is misguided…
Gluten-free diet linked to higher heart disease risk
With millions of people who have followed a gluten-free diet for a decade, medical researchers now have enough data to analyze its effects on health.
In fact, a large study published in 2017 in BMJ assessed the effects of a gluten-free diet on heart disease risk. The researchers looked at data over a 25-year-period for 100,000 men and women from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study at Harvard.
They found men and women who followed a gluten-free diet did not have lower heart disease risk. In fact, those who reported the lowest gluten intake had a slightly higher heart disease risk than those reporting the highest gluten intake.
Other studies link a gluten-free diet in people without celiac disease with a higher risk of obesity. In fact, many studies have found gluten-free diets offer no benefit in terms of reducing the risk of metabolic syndrome (diabetes and cardiometabolic heart disease).
Each of these findings makes sense.
Indeed, the first thing I noted years ago about packaged gluten-free foods is that they tend to replace the missing gluten with a lot of sugar instead. Manufacturers pulled this same disastrous trick years ago with the fat-free diet. They replaced the fat with sugar. (I first shed light on this — along with other popular diet myths — in the May 2014 issue of my monthly newsletter, Insiders’ Cures. You can revisit this article, “Nine big fat myths still being mouthed by ‘experts,’” by logging into my archives via www.DrMicozzi.com. If you don’t currently receive my newsletter, simply click here to get started.)
So, if you’re eating more gluten-free foods laden with sugar, of course you’re going to also have a higher risk of heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and obesity.
Plus, a gluten-free diet can severely lack key nutrients. These include:
• vitamin B12
• vitamin D
And these nutrients play a key role in supporting overall health. (Ironically, people with an official diagnosis of real celiac disease experience these same nutrient deficiencies — but in their case, it’s because of malabsorption in their GI tract.)
Still, other studies show people who follow a gluten-free diet have significantly higher levels of toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury.
Experts don’t quite understand why this happens. But these metals were present in large enough quantities to be detected in both blood and urine.
In addition to damaging your health, gluten-free products can wreak havoc on your budget too. In fact, one survey found that gluten-free products cost four times more than their counterparts with gluten.
Unless you’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease, you should simply follow a balanced Mediterranean-style diet that includes a wide variety of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and an absolute minimum of processed foods.
And remember, you can cut back on refined wheat and carbs without going gluten-free. I suspect simply cutting back on the refined foods will help your digestive health.
If you follow a gluten-free diet out of medical necessity, purchase products with a gluten-free whole grain (such as brown rice flour) as the first ingredient. I recommend the brand Aleia’s Gluten-Free Foods.
And most importantly, everyone should supplement daily with a high-quality vitamin B complex that contains at least 50 mg of B3 (niacin), 10,000 IU daily of vitamin D, 200 mg daily of magnesium, and 3,000 to 4,000 mg daily of fish oil with omega-3s.
“Five Reasons to Avoid Going Gluten-Free (If You Don’t Have Celiac Disease),” Medscape (www.medscape.com) 2/15/2018