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Image result for wheat bread wikipedia Low gluten or gluten-free diets are a necessity for those suffering from Celiac disease or who are gluten intolerant. But low gluten diets are also followed by many people who do not have these diseases simply because they think it may be healthier for them. But is it healthier? Two recent studies raise health concerns about low gluten or gluten-free dietsGluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley.

The first study found that people who eat a low gluten or gluten-free diet are at risk for increased exposure to arsenic and mercury (which are toxic metals that can lead to cardiovascular disease, cancer and neurological effects). This is because gluten-free products often contain rice flour, which is used as a substitute for wheat. Rice is known to bioaccumulate certain toxic metals, including arsenic and mercury from fertilizers, soil, or water. People who reported eating gluten-free had higher concentrations of arsenic in their urine, and mercury in their blood, than those who did not. The arsenic levels were almost twice as high for people eating a gluten-free diet, and mercury levels were 70 percent higher. Unfortunately the U.S. does not have regulations for arsenic exposure in foods (but Europe does).

The second study found that a low-gluten diet may  raise the risk of type 2 diabetes. Diets higher in gluten were associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In the study, those who ate less gluten also tended to eat less cereal fiber which is known to be protective against developing type 2 diabetes.

From Science Daily: Gluten-free diet may increase risk of arsenic, mercury exposure

People who eat a gluten-free diet may be at risk for increased exposure to arsenic and mercury -- toxic metals that can lead to cardiovascular disease, cancer and neurological effects, according to a report in the journal Epidemiology. Gluten-free diets have become popular in the U.S., although less than 1 percent of Americans have been diagnosed with celiac disease -- an out-of-control immune response to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. A gluten-free diet is recommended for people with celiac disease, but others often say they prefer eating gluten-free because it reduces inflammation -- a claim that has not been scientifically proven. In 2015, one-quarter of Americans reported eating gluten-free, a 67 percent increase from 2013.

They found 73 participants who reported eating a gluten-free diet among the 7,471 who completed the survey, between 2009 and 2014. Participants ranged in age from 6 to 80 years old. People who reported eating gluten-free had higher concentrations of arsenic in their urine, and mercury in their blood, than those who did not. The arsenic levels were almost twice as high for people eating a gluten-free diet, and mercury levels were 70 percent higher.

For Science Daily: Low gluten diets linked to higher risk of type 2 diabetes

Eating more gluten may be associated with a lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, according to research presented at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology and Prevention / Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health 2017 Scientific Sessions....In this long-term observational study, researchers found that most participants had gluten intake below 12 grams/day, and within this range, those who ate the most gluten had lower Type 2 diabetes risk during thirty years of follow-up. Study participants who ate less gluten also tended to eat less cereal fiber, a known protective factor for Type 2 diabetes development.

After further accounting for the potential effect of cereal fiber, individuals in the highest 20 percent of gluten consumption had a 13 percent lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in comparison to those with the lowest daily gluten consumption (approximately fewer than 4 grams).

Finding out that so many of probiotics currently contain traces of gluten is of serious concern to people wishing to avoid gluten in food products, for example those with celiac disease. Too bad the researchers didn't publish the brands.From Science Daily:

Many probiotics are contaminated with traces of gluten

More than half of popular probiotics contain traces of gluten, according to an analysis. Tests on 22 top-selling probiotics revealed that 12 of them (or 55%) had detectable gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, and patients with celiac disease need to eliminate it from their diet or face pain, bowel symptoms, and an increased risk of cancer.

Probiotics are commonly taken by patients for their theoretical effect in promoting gut health, though evidence of benefits is limited to a few clinical situations. "Many patients with celiac disease take dietary supplements, and probiotics are particularly popular," said Dr. Samantha Nazareth, a gastroenterologist at CUMC and the first author of the study. "We have previously reported that celiac patients who use dietary supplements have more symptoms than non-users, so we decided to test the probiotics for gluten contamination," said Dr. Nazareth.

 Most of the probiotics that tested positive for gluten contained less than 20 parts per million of the protein, and would be considered gluten-free by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards. However, four of the brands (18% of the total) contained in excess of that amount.

More than half of the 22 probiotics were labeled gluten-free, but this had no bearing on whether or not traces of gluten were present. Two probiotics that did not meet FDA standards carried the label.It is uncertain whether these trace amounts of gluten could cause symptoms or otherwise harm patients with celiac disease.