The study findings published online in the British Medical Journal today reveal that the intake of a long-term gluten diet is not connected with coronary heart disease among people without celiac disease. Whereas gluten restrictions that reduce the intake of whole grains is connected to heart health.
When celiac patients consume gluten, it causes inflammation and damage to the intestine, increasing the risk of coronary heart disease. However, after treating patients with a gluten-free diet, the severity of the disease is reduced.
However, in recent years there has been a rise in the gluten-free diet even among non-celiac people, based on popular diet books, and to some extent on the belief that gluten can do harm to health while a low-gluten diet is healthy.
In spite of the rise in gluten restricted or gluten-free diets, there is no long-term research that has considered the relationship between a gluten diet and the risk of chronic heart conditions in non-celiac people.
A US-based research team has studied the connection between long-term intake of gluten and developing coronary heart disease. They examined the data of more than 100,000 participants in total, 45,000 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and 65,000 women from Nurses’ Health Study, who were non-celiac and without record of coronary heart disease.
At baseline, participants completed a detailed diet questionnaire, which was updated once in every four years during the period 1986–2010. During this period, the participants were divided into five stages for estimated gluten consumption and were monitored for the consumption of gluten diet and the development of coronary heart disease. There was no significant relationship found between the estimated gluten diet and the risk of coronary heart disease.
On the other hand, further analysis recommended that gluten restriction may lead to lower whole grains ingestion, which may increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases in non-celiac people.
The research team outlined some limitations that could have established a bias and pointed out that the study was observational and so definite conclusions could not be drawn about the cause and the effects of the relationship. Yet, they also concluded that the result outcomes did not support promoting a diet with gluten restrictions with an objective to reduce risk of coronary heart disease, and warned that the promotion was not recommended even in non-celiac people who do not show symptoms.
Further information about Celiac disease
Celiac disease is a serious genetic autoimmune disorder, where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage to the small intestine. It is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide. Two and a half million Americans are undiagnosed and are at risk of long-term health complications.
When people with celiac disease eat gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley), their body produces an immune response that attacks the small intestine. These attacks lead to damage to the villi, small fingerlike projections that line the small intestine that promotes nutrient absorption. When the villi get damaged, nutrients cannot be absorbed properly into the body. The only treatment currently for celiac disease is a strict gluten-free diet. Most patients report symptom improvement within a few weeks, although intestinal healing may take several years.
Celiac disease is hereditary and those with a first-degree relative with celiac disease (parent, child, sibling) have a 1 in 10 risk of developing celiac disease.