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TUESDAY, May 2, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Eating “gluten-free” when there’s no medical need to do so won’t boost your heart health — and might even harm it, a new study warns.

Gluten-free diets have soared in popularity in recent years. But, shunning gluten has no heart benefits for people without celiac disease, and it may mean consuming a diet lacking heart-healthy whole grains, according to the quarter-century study.

“For the vast majority of people who can tolerate it, restricting gluten to improve your overall health is likely not to be a beneficial strategy,” said study leader Dr. Andrew Chan.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. People with celiac disease — less than 1 percent of the U.S. population — have an immune system reaction when they eat gluten, triggering inflammation and intestinal damage. They also have an increased risk of heart disease, but that declines after they begin eating a gluten-free diet, according to background information in the study.

Recently, researchers have reported that some people may have what’s known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity, a condition that’s not totally understood.

“I don’t want to dismiss the fact that there are people who have the sensitivity,” said Chan, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

But, the rest of the population should not think that going gluten-free will help their health — at least not their heart health, he said.

For the study, Chan and his colleagues analyzed data on nearly 65,000 women and more than 45,000 men, all U.S. health professionals without a history of heart disease when the study started. The study participants completed a detailed food questionnaire beginning in 1986 and updated it every four years until 2010.

The researchers looked at gluten intake, dividing participants into five groups from low to high, then calculated how likely they were to develop heart disease over roughly…



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