It’s food for thought for those adhering to a gluten-free diet — people who eat the much-maligned protein may have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
That’s the finding of Harvard University researchers, who say people who consumed a normal amount of gluten had a 13 per cent lower risk of developing the metabolic disorder, compared to those who consumed less than 4g/day.
Those who ate low levels of gluten also tended to eat less cereal fibre, known to protect people against type 2 diabetes.
‘‘Gluten-free foods often have less dietary fibre and other micronutrients, making them less nutritious and they also tend to cost more,’’ Geng Zong, a research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard University, said.
People without coeliac disease may want to reconsider limiting their gluten intake in order to prevent disease, Dr Zong said.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley.
A small percentage of the population can’t tolerate gluten because of Coeliac disease or gluten sensitivity, but gluten-free diets have become popular for people without these conditions.
Wanting to determine if gluten consumption will affect health in people with no apparent medical reasons to avoid gluten, Dr Zong and his colleagues examined the daily gluten intake for nearly 200000 people who participated in three health studies from 1984-1990.
On average, the daily gluten intake was 6.5g and the major sources of gluten came through the consumption of pastas and cereals.
On follow-up, nearly 16000 cases of type 2 diabetes were confirmed between 2010-13.
Because the study was observational, further studies to investigate the link between gluten and diabetes were needed, the researchers said.
The research was presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention/Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health 2017 Scientific Sessions last week.
What's it all about?
■Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition affecting at least one per cent of the population, many of whom are undiagnosed.
It is characterised by chronic inflammation of the small-intestinal mucosa and triggered by eating gluten. It is challenging to diagnose because of the many and varied ways in which it may present.
■Gluten, the principal storage protein in wheat, consists of a number of proline- and glutamine-rich proteins.
These amino acids are highly resistant to digestion and in genetically predisposed individuals their contact with the intestinal mucosa triggers the immune response seen in coeliac disease.
■This response to gluten is initiated by tissue transglutaminase (tTG), an enzyme that deamidates gluten peptides present in the small bowel mucosa. The deamidated gliadin peptides (DGPs) are then detected by antigen-presenting cells, which activate and lead to the proliferation of gluten-specific activated cytotoxic T cells.
This immune response leads to the mucosal destruction in the small bowel, characteristic of coeliac disease.
■Because of the close similarity of their storage proteins to those in wheat, barley and rye also provoke this response.
From: Australian Family Physician