The dangers connected with a gluten-free diet for healthy people are well known among professionals. But due to aggressive marketing from the gluten-free foods giants, many people believe that gluten itself is unhealthy. No! Gluten is an essential nutrient, not potassium cyanide. Furthermore, evidence suggests that a gluten-free diet puts your health at risk.
7 Dangers of gluten free foods for 98% of us
Our primary purpose is to briefly describe this evidence and raise awareness of the potential pitfalls of adopting a gluten-free diet in persons without diagnosed gluten-related disorders.
Gluten-free foods are rich in fat, sugars, salt, preservatives and some dangerous artificial additives providing a higher energy intake and causing health risks in comparison with a normal diet.
Long-term gluten restriction can induce many health risks, including obesity, nutritional deficiency, cardiovascular problems, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, atherosclerosis as well as an accumulation of heavy metals in the body.
However, only about 1% of America’s population is diagnosed with a gluten-related disorder, yet nearly a third (about 100 millions!) of the population would prefer to reduce or avoid gluten.
Why gluten free diets are so popular?
We’ve already passed through many so-called “healthy diets” such as raw vegetables diet, cholesterol-free diet, low-carb diet, paleo diet, elimination diet, vegan diet and etc. They have done nothing good to us. Today, millions of people have switched to gluten free diets.
Multiple factors have contributed to the spike of gluten-free diets but we’d like to mention the major two:
- Aggressive propaganda from the food industry giants and consumer-directed marketing
- Non-scientific rumors regarding the benefits of gluten avoidance, such as improvement of other health-related symptoms.
Non-celiac people following a gluten-free think that a gluten-free diet is a healthier choice, that it may improve nonspecific gastrointestinal symptoms. Also, a large number of people are self-diagnosing themselves with gluten sensitivity.
Actually, it’s the only reason – MONEY. Mega profit for the gluten-free foods producers.
Gluten-free diet is rather a commercial trick
Gluten-free diet is rather a commercial trick, not a health concern. Due to the growing popularity of gluten-free products, sales are expected to balloon to as much as $24 billion by 2020. We’ve already seen the “fat-free”, “cholesterol-free” and other “something-free” food products that generated an unbelievable profit to their manufacturers causing great harm to people’s health.
Only those with celiac disease and other diagnosed gluten intolerances require gluten avoidance. If you’re unconvinced and insist on adopting a gluten-free diet, consider the following facts to make an informed decision about modifying your diet.
Eating too many gluten-free processed foods
Okay, you are a normal healthy person, not celiac, not gluten sensitive. But being influenced by mass media, you’ve decided to start a gluten-free diet. It can be pretty exciting to discover gluten-free alternatives like gluten-free breads, croissants, pastas, frozen chicken nuggets, and packaged meals.
But please, before turning to a gluten free diet, do your homework, research. The common sense and people’s wisdom say – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
Just because something is labeled gluten-free it doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Gluten free convenience foods contain loads of added sugar, unhealthy fats, and nutrient-empty ingredients. Overall, the gluten-free food aisle contains some of the most heavily processed food in the grocery store.
- Gluten-free replacement flours that are notoriously terrible for your health, such as rice starches, rice flour, tapioca starch, corn, and soy flours
- Refined sugar
- Refined oils like canola, soy, and cottonseed
The vast majority of foods we eat are naturally gluten-free
The vast majority of foods we eat are naturally gluten-free. It includes meat, fish, seafood, eggs, milk and dairy products, nuts, legumes, fruit, vegetables, potatoes, pseudocereals (in particular amaranth, buckwheat, chia seed, quinoa), and a full spectrum of products made from these gluten-free foods.
Why gluten-containing foods are essential for your overall health
How we get nutrients from food: healthy guts – healthy you
Intestinal villi are finger-like projections made up of cells that line the entire length of your small intestine. Intestinal villi absorb nutrients from the food you eat and then shuttle those nutrients into your bloodstream so they can travel where they are needed.
Villi increase the internal surface area of the intestinal walls making available a greater surface area for absorption. An increased absorptive area is useful because digested nutrients (including monosaccharide and amino acids) pass into the villi through diffusion. Increased surface area increases the effectiveness of diffusion. The villi are connected to the blood vessels so the circulating blood then carries these nutrients throughout your body.
Coeliac disease flattens intestinal villi
A healthy intestine has an abundance of villi which aid in the absorption of nutrients into the bloodstream. In diseases of the small intestine the villi can become flattened due to the effects of inflammation, and the villi can sometimes disappear. This deterioration is known as villous atrophy, and is often a feature of coeliac disease.
Becoming well-fed but malnourished
Unfortunately, you can be well-fed but malnourished. Many factors (including coeliac disease) cause intestinal villi to be flattened thus compromising their ability to properly absorb nutrients. It means that even if you are eating a healthy diet, your body may not be benefiting from it.
Celiac people have to adhere to a strict gluten-free diet for their entire life. However, dieting is only a piece of the puzzle when combating celiac disease and the damage it has caused. Other things like exercise, probiotics, and taking a good supplement can help in a way that the diet by itself won’t manage.
A study found that 10 years after going gluten-free, as much as 50% of celiac patients were still suffering from poor vitamin status. This could be due to poor diet, or because regardless of diet, the body is having difficulty absorbing nutrients adequately.
7 Dangers of gluten free diets for healthy people
Here are some risks that people take when they unnecessarily switch to a gluten free diet:
1. Nutritional Deficiencies
It is a common misconception that going gluten-free is beneficial for non-celiac people (which are 98% of us). Continued mal-absorption of nutrients can contribute to mood disorders, lower energy levels, poor bone health, insomnia, attention problems, and a host of other issues. Gluten-free products are:
- Lack of major nutrients such as proteins and Omega-3 fatty acids
- Lack of vitamins and minerals: A gluten-free diet can lack the vitamin B complex, vitamin D, fiber, folate, calcium, magnesium, and iron which are found in wheat, barley, rye, kamut, and other gluten-containing whole grains.
- Non-enriched with some nutrients: Many gluten-free products are not fortified or enriched by such nutrients as folate, iron, and fiber as traditional breads and cereals have been during the last century.
- Lack of fiber: Although other foods can provide fibers, none are as rich in fiber as whole wheat. Whole wheat bread is an excellent source of dietary fiber. By cutting out something that is good for them in appropriate portions, gluten free dieters choose to forgo the benefits of whole wheat products. It would take a lot more effort to make up for the lack of fiber in your diet. By making sure that you eat plenty of fiber, you will have better overall gut health and receive antioxidant, anti-inflammatory benefits. These benefits can help reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
2. Weight Gain
Many people voluntarily switch to a gluten free diet because they want to lose weight and be healthier. However, just because something is gluten free does not mean that it’s healthy: a lot of junk foods that we indulge in are already gluten free such as French fries and candy bars.
In fact, gluten free foods can lead to weight gain because they are:
- Higher in additives: Gluten-free bread is less fluffy, so additives are used to compensate, such as corn starch, eggs, xanthum gum, guar gum, and hydroxypropyl methylcellulose and may be too high in fat and calories.
- Higher in sugar: Processed gluten-free foods are higher in sugar and glycemic index.
- Higher in salt: Processed gluten-free foods are higher in salt.
- Higher in trans fats: Processed gluten-free foods are also higher in trans fats – a type of unsaturated fats that are uncommon in nature but became commonly produced industrially from vegetable fats for use in margarine, snack food, packaged baked goods and frying fast food. Trans-fats have been shown to consistently be associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease, a leading cause of death in Western nations.
3. Higher risk of cardiovascular disease
Many studies have found that people with higher intakes of whole grains compared with groups eating less had a significantly lower risk of heart disease. A study of over 100,000 participants without celiac disease found that those who restricted gluten intake experienced an increased risk of heart disease compared with those who had higher gluten intake.
A study published in the British Medical Journal in 2017 concluded that a person who follows a gluten-free diet without having celiac disease has a higher risk of cardiovascular disease in the long term due to lack of the heart-healthy nutrients.
4. Increased risk of type 2 diabetes
In a study involving healthy men and women, research showed that when participants ate gluten, they were less likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Fiber and other vitamins and nutrients found in healthy foods containing gluten proved to be beneficial to the overall health of these participants. People who voluntarily switch to a gluten free diet give up foods that are important to maintaining a balanced diet.
5. Accumulation of heavy metals – complications accompanying gluten-free diets
Specific foods such as fish and rice have high concentrations of metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and cobalt. Many gluten-free diets include these foods, so researches evaluated whether a gluten-free food was associated with increased metal bioaccumulation. It was found that persons on a gluten-free diet had significantly higher urine levels of arsenic and blood levels of mercury, lead, and cadmium than persons not avoiding gluten.
6. Can lead to eating disorders
Researchers suggest that some athletes can become so focused on their gluten-free diet that they overlook the importance of fueling their training. This can lead to complications around food restriction and possibly lead to eating disorders.
7. May mask serious diseases
There is one more concern: a gluten-free diet may mask symptoms of more serious diseases because it’s hard to tell if the person’s health condition improved due to a dietary change.
Another study says that going gluten-free for otherwise healthy people has no benefits at all, despite popular perceptions. It can only cause harm to your health.
Gluten-free foods are expensive
The gluten-free diet can also contribute to a significant increase in food expenses (an estimated 206% increase) due to the cost of these diet-friendly foods. For example, the average cost of wheat bread is about $3 CAD, whereas the average cost of a gluten-free loaf runs around $5 to $6 CAD.
The conclusion is:
“The promotion of gluten-free diets among people without celiac disease should not be encouraged.”