In the last few years, there’s a good chance you’ve either eaten alongside a passenger on the gluten-free trend train or been aboard yourself. This, of course, doesn’t include those with celiac disease, a severe autoimmune disorder triggered by gluten, a storage protein in wheat and other grains.
But according to new research, those who go gluten-free without suffering from celiac disease don’t benefit — not only that, they may be actually hurting their bodies.
A study from Columbia University and Harvard Medical School researchers, published in the BMJ, concludes that the “promotion of gluten-free diets among people without celiac disease should not be encouraged.”
The reasoning? According to the paper, “… the avoidance of gluten may result in reduced consumption of beneficial whole grains, which may affect cardiovascular risk.”
Basically, they were studying whether eating gluten would negatively affect your heart, and found out that not eating gluten negatively affects your heart. And their methods were painstakingly comprehensive, cataloguing over 100,000 people from 1986 to 2010.
Should you be of the science-denying persuasion, and want to continue your gluten-free lifestyle because someone with a bunch of followers told you to, Quartz provides the humanitarian appeal of eating gluten again. Those with celiac disease are facing skepticism of their disease because so many people without it are choosing to go gluten-free. In practice, that means some restaurants are becoming lax about separating foods, because gluten contamination won’t harm the gluten-free fakers. As for those with celiacs, even trace amounts of the protein can cause dangerous symptoms.
The takeaway: If you really think your “gluten sensitivity” may be celiacs, ask your doctor. If not, that’s a good sign you should skip the gluten-free section and hit the gym a few more times a week instead. Your heart will thank you.