Gluten-free diet increases risk of type 2 diabetes, says study

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Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, rye and barley.

Gluten-free diets could increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a new study warns.

This finding suggests that there might be a link between people's gluten consumption and their risk of diabetes, the researchers said.

A considerable number of people who do not have these diseases still adopt a gluten-free diet in the hope that it benefits their health.

"People without coeliac disease may reconsider limiting their gluten intake for chronic disease prevention, especially for diabetes", said Geng Zong, a research fellow at Harvard University.

Drilling more deeply into the dietary habits of the participants it was found that those who ate less gluten also generally consumed less cereal fiber, which is known to reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

The separate studies involved participants logging their food habits in questionnaires completed every two to four years.

Most of the participants took part in the study before gluten-free diets became popular, so there is no data from people who deliberately avoided it. Type 2 diabetes - the most common type of diabetes - occurs when the body has lost the ability to use insulin efficiently.

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One possible explanation is that the people who consumed more gluten also ate more fiber, which, as previous research suggested, may help to lower a person's diabetes risk.

"It could be that other things that you tend to find gluten with, we tend to find things like wholegrains, which are associated with a reduction in risk of diabetes", University of Canberra Associate Professor of nutritional science Duane Mellor explained.

A small percentage of the population - about one percent, or three million Americans - can not tolerate gluten due to celiac disease, or gluten sensitivity.

Penelope Lowry, a 47-year-old marketing manager in Sydney, told The Australian that she made the switch to a gluten-free diet about 10 years ago.

Smith says the findings of the research may prompt those who abstain from gluten for reasons other than celiac disease and sensitivities to think carefully about doing so.

In the United States, a 2014 Consumer Reports National Research Centre survey found that 63% of Americans believe that a gluten-free diet would improve their physical and mental health.

"It's important to remember that going gluten free is only necessary if you have coeliacs disease, otherwise you may simply be unnecessarily restricting yourself", she said.

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