The gluten-free diet has gained enormous popularity in recent years. Today, many people in the U.S. are on gluten-free diets despite the fact they are not diagnosed with celiac disease.
A gluten-free food or a diet without wheat and related grains is often recommended for people with celiac disease – a condition in which a person can’t digest gluten.
However, new research suggests that gluten-free diet could be harmful to our health. People who avoid gluten-based diet may be at risk for exposure to toxic metals like arsenic and mercury that can lead to cardiovascular disease, cancer and neurological effects.
To reach this conclusion, researchers analyzed the data on more than 7,000 participants in a large national health survey and found that 73 of them were on a gluten free diet. The survey was conducted between 2009 and 2014 and the age range had been 6 to 80.
Researchers found 73 participants who reported eating gluten-free had higher concentrations of arsenic in their urine and mercury in their blood than those who did not. Compared to other participants in the survey, gluten-free people had nearly twice the levels of arsenic in their urine and 70 percent higher levels of mercury in their blood.
“These results indicate that there could be unintended consequences of eating a gluten-free diet. But until we perform the studies to determine if there are corresponding health consequences that could be related to higher levels of exposure to arsenic and mercury by eating gluten-free.” Maria Argos, a professor of epidemiology at University of Illinois in Chicago said.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. In a gluten-free diet, these foods are often replaced by rice floor, which is known for accumulating certain toxic metals, including arsenic and mercury from fertilizers, soil or water. Although health risks associated with this type of food are somewhat evident, only few researches have been carried out to determine its impact on human body.
Researchers believe further work is needed to analyze its effects before we can determine whether this diet poses a significant health risk.
“In Europe, there are regulations for food-based arsenic exposure, and perhaps that is something we here in the United States need to consider,” said Argos. “We regulate levels of arsenic in water, but if rice flour consumption increases the risk for exposure to arsenic, it would make sense to regulate the metal in foods as well.”
Report first appeared on I4U NEWS.