Research Your Resolution: Consider Heart Health Before Going Gluten-Free

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Andrew Chan, MD
Andrew Chan, MD, MPH

Andrew Chan, MD, MPH, Stuart and Suzanne Steele MGH Research Scholar and Chief of the Clinical and Translational Epidemiology Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, recently released the results of a study investigating the widespread perception that a gluten-free diet (for reasons other than gluten allergy) can be beneficial to your heart health.


There is intense interest in the potential health benefits of going “gluten-free” even if one does not have a true allergy to gluten as we see in individuals with celiac disease.

For example, some diet books have recommended a gluten-free diet for longevity and heart health. However, there are surprisingly little data to support this recommendation.

In a large study which tracked the dietary habits of more than  100,000 men and women over the last several decades, we did not find any evidence that a low gluten diet was associated with a lower risk of heart disease.

In fact, a low gluten diet tended to be deficient in foods with whole grains that are actually associated with better heart health.

In some situations, pursuing a low gluten diet could actually be harmful. The lesson here is that the most healthful diets still appear to contain a balance of foods rather than being overly restrictive.


Research Your Resolution

Do you have goals for improving your health in the New Year? This month, investigators from the Mass General Research Institute are discussing the science behind some common New Year’s resolutions, and offering tips and advice based on their research into exercise, diet, healthy aging, heart health, and much more.

Massachusetts General Hospital is home to the largest hospital-based research program in the United States, a community of more than 8,500 people working across 30 departments, centers and institutes. The Mass General Research Institute works to support, guide and promote these research initiatives.

About the Mass General Research Institute
Massachusetts General Hospital is home to the largest hospital-based research program in the United States. Research at Mass General takes place in over 30 departments, centers and institutes and is supported by federal and state funding, foundations, industry partners and philanthropic donations. Support our research.

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Comments

    • Elise
    • February 13, 2018
    Reply

    Dr. Chan, you state that “The lesson here is that the most healthful diets still appear to contain a balance of foods rather than being overly restrictive”. Can you please define “overly restrictive”? Do you think that sugar is part of a balanced diet? Is avoidance of it another example of being overly restrictive? Thanks in advance.

      • mghresearch
      • February 14, 2018
      Reply

      Hi Elise,
      Here’s what Dr. Chan had to say:
      “I define an ‘overly restrictive’ as a diet that entirely excludes a major food group, such as gluten. I do not view refined sugar as a part of a balance diet. Sugar occurs naturally in most of our food — fruits, vegetables, etc, so this provides all of the sugar and carbohydrates that we need.”

Let us know what you think!

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