Gluten-free diets are becoming increasingly popular, but eliminating gluten might also pose a risk to certain people. Low-gluten diets might be associated with a higher chance of developing Type 2 diabetes, research has shown.
Gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, provides elasticity to dough and gives baked goods their chewy texture. While those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity cannot tolerate gluten, many others are choosing to follow gluten-free diets.
Harvard University researchers looked at three long-term studies that included a total of about 200,000 participants, each of whom completed food-frequency questionnaires.
They calculated the participants’ daily gluten intake and found most ate less than 12 grams of gluten per day. Those who ate less gluten also tended to eat less cereal fiber, which is a known protective factor against Type 2 diabetes development.
The researchers found those who consumed the highest levels of gluten had a 13 percent lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes compared with those who ate the least amount of gluten. The major sources of gluten were pasta, cereal, pizza, muffins, pretzels and bread.
The scientists also noted that most of the people took part in the study before gluten-free diets became popular, so there is no data from gluten abstainers.
Experts say there is little evidence that cutting out gluten provides long-term health benefits, adding that gluten-free foods often lack dietary fiber and micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. So, if you haven’t been diagnosed with a gluten sensitivity, you may not have to fear the pizza.