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‘No evidence’ gluten-free diets are good, scientist says

You may have heard that adopting a gluten-free diet could be good for your health.

But now a gastroenterologist has warned there is ‘no evidence’ that avoiding the proteins found in wheat, rye and barley is beneficial.

Dr Suzanne Mahady, a senior lecturer, Monash University, said only those diagnosed with coeliac disease should keep to the strict diet.

She even suggested in a piece for The Conversation that steering clear of gluten could have the opposite effect to the one that is desired. 

A gastroenterologist has warned there is ‘no evidence’ that avoiding the proteins found in wheat, rye and barley is beneficial

Dr Mahady wrote on the website: ‘For people without coeliac disease, there’s no evidence to support claims a strict gluten-free diet is beneficial for health. 

‘It’s even possible the opposite is true, and the avoidance of dietary whole grains resulting in a low fibre intake may be detrimental.’

Coeliac disease sufferers often restrict themselves from eating the protein as it can make them severely ill.

However, it is believed that around 13 per cent of the UK population have started to avoid the protein by choosing such products instead. 

And the figure is even higher in the US, with a quarter saying they had consumed such foods in 2015 – a 67 per cent increase in two years. 


Gluten-free diets have taken off rapidly in the past few years.

But research in February suggested those choosing to follow the trend are exposed to high levels of two toxic metals.

Those going gluten-free have double the amount of arsenic – a known cause of cancer – in their body, scientists at the University of Illinois found.

While traces of mercury – another deadly chemical – are almost 70 per cent greater, experts claimed.

Gluten-free versions of bread, spaghetti and cereals often contain rice flour as a substitute for wheat.

But rice is known to contain up to ten times more arsenic than other foods due to the way it was grown.

Generally, brown rice has higher levels because the arsenic is found in the outer coating or bran, which is removed in the milling process to produce white rice.  

Statistics show that just one per cent of the population are struck down with the agonising condition.

Dr Mahady continued: ‘Gluten-free foods are frequently perceived as a healthier alternative, because of a alignment with a “wellness lifestyle”. 

‘Recent large studies have not found health benefits for a gluten-free diet, and in fact the opposite may be true.

‘Of course, naturally gluten-free products such as plant-based foods, ancient grains and dairy are all part of a healthy and balanced diet.

‘But there does not seem to be a health benefit for the processed and packaged gluten-free replacements over wheat-based versions.’

Not indulging in cakes, biscuits, crackers and beer is likely to be why some report positive effects from a gluten-free diet, she said.

She pointed to a 30-year long study which found gluten-free diets had no impact on boosting heart health.

And another ‘large’ study noted an association between type 2 diabetes in adults who eat less gluten.

Dr Mahady said: ‘Whether the market will expand or diminish with time is unknown, but food fashions are not new.

‘Consider the popularity of low-fat diets in the 1980s, when butter was a villain. Now butter is now back in vogue, with sales increasing. 

‘Similarly, red wine used to be considered protective for cardiac health, but guidelines for safe alcohol consumption now recommend reduced intake.