A decade ago, you had to scour specialty food stores to find gluten-free bread. Now, many supermarkets have an entire aisle dedicated to gluten-free products.
But this purportedly 'healthy' trend could have unforeseen health implications, Harvard University researchers say.
A new report by Harvard University's Department of Nutrition suggests a diet low in gluten may increase your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
The study looked at the diets of almost 200,000 participants over a thirty year period. During that time, just under 16,000 cases of diabetes were confirmed.
Most of the participants in the study ate less than 12 grams of gluten a day -- not a huge amount, considering a slice of bread contains around 4.8 grams. But those who ate the most gluten had the lowest risk of developing diabetes.
Abstaining from gluten means avoiding foods like breads, pasta, breakfast cereals, muesli bars, cakes and pastries unless they are made with 'gluten-free' flours such as rice flour and corn flour -- although even these products can still contain tiny amounts of gluten.
A small percentage of the population have problems eating gluten due to Coeliac disease or a gluten intolerance, but celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Kourtney Kardashian and Jessica Alba have made the diet a popular lifestyle and weightloss choice.
The researchers found that those who ate less gluten also ate less cereal fibre, which is found in many of the foods containing gluten such as bread and pasta -- an important preventative factor for developing diabetes.
However, even after accounting for this, there was still a higher diabetes risk. The 20 percent of participants who ate the most amount of gluten in the study had a 13 percent lower risk of going on to develop Type 2 diabetes.
Geng Zong, a research fellow at Harvard's Department of Nutrition, presented the research findings at an American Heart Association conference last week.
"Gluten-free foods often have less dietary fiber and other micronutrients, making them less nutritious," he said.
"People without Celiac disease may reconsider limiting their gluten intake for chronic disease prevention, especially for diabetes."
The researchers suggest more research needs to be done to determine whether it is the gluten itself playing an active role in preventing the disease.Suggest a correction