Why a gluten-free diet might be bad for your health
First it was fat, then carbohydrates; now gluten has become public enemy number one.
Carbohydrates have long been on the diet naughty list and these days, thanks to a new wave of celebrity-inspired wellness propaganda, gluten is off the plate, too.
With everyone from Pete Evans and Katy Perry to Gwyneth Paltrow, Lady Gaga and Jessica Alba swearing off cereal grains, it’s easy to see why gluten has become public enemy number one.
People are so confused about whether or not it’s safe to eat that search queries for gluten and gluten-free on Google have more than quadrupled over the past decade. While the incidence of coeliac disease (where the immune system reacts abnormally to gluten causing small bowel damage) remains unchanged, there are an estimated four million Australians who currently live with an allergic disease.
But despite a very public smear campaign against gluten, Monash University nutrition scientist Jane Muir says going gluten-free if you don’t need to might not be the health fix many of us believe.
“Gluten has been blamed for lots of things over the years,” Jane says. “It’s become a bit of a scapegoat for a whole host of health ailments. The thing is, if you go on a diet where you’re excluding gluten, you’re essentially going to have major impact on your overall diet.”
A 2017 study published in the The BMJ found that, for people who don't have coeliac disease or a true gluten allergy or sensitivity, avoiding dietary gluten may result in a lower intake of whole grains, which are associated with cardiovascular benefits.
According to the research, adopting a gluten-free diet may even contribute to increased cardiovascular risk. The study said wholesale avoidance of gluten was not recommended for asymptomatic individuals.
But what is gluten and why is it bad for some people? Here is everything you need to know about the much-maligned cereal offender.