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Low Gluten and Increased Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

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by Amy Campbell, RD, CDE | Mar 17, 2017

A recent headline stopped me in my tracks: “Low gluten diets may be associated with higher risk of type 2 diabetes.” I thought this was fascinating and had to learn more.

The research is from 69, 276 participants of the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS); 88,610 from the Nurses’ Health Study II (NHSII); and 41,908 from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS) from food frequency questionnaires that were completed every two to four years. More confirmation is needed to show cause and effect because this study was observational.

Of course, it is essential for those diagnosed with Celiac disease to avoid gluten, but a gluten-free diet for a person without Celiac disease may need to take a closer look at what types of foods fill their plates. Geng Zong Ph.D, a research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Heath, said in an American Heart Association press release, “Gluten-free foods often have less dietary fiber and other micronutrients, making them less nutritious and they also tend to cost more. People without Celiac disease may reconsider limiting their gluten intake for chronic disease prevention, especially for diabetes.”

One of the things that stood out was the consumption differences of cereal fiber. Those participants in the study who ate less gluten also ate less cereal fiber and had a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. There are many ways to get fiber in the diet and certainly someone can make a conscious effort to increase their fiber intake if they decide they want to go low-gluten or gluten-free. As diabetes professionals, this is something that we should be consider and review when counseling patients who inquire about gluten-free options.


Amy Campbell

About the Author

Amy Campbell is a dietitian and certified diabetes educator. She currently works in public health in Lexington, Kentucky and has been working in diabetes for over seven years.

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