Can Eating Gluten-Free Increase the Risk of Diabetes?

13th May 2020
Is eating gluten-free a positive or negative decision for the well-being of your body? Find out in this article.

In recent years, diets that restrict gluten and lactose have become very popular. People who advocate that type of diet claim that gluten and lactose are the cause of inflammatory processes and adverse reactions in the body. Therefore, they’re convinced that eating gluten-free and removing lactose from our diets is the healthiest thing we can do. However, these measures can make healthy people sick.

Currently, there are no conclusive studies linking the restriction of these nutrients with a decrease or prevention of complex diseases. The physiological mechanisms by which these measures could supposedly reduce inflammatory processes are also unclear.

Eating gluten-free can cause intolerances

Our body has enzymes to synthesize nutrients. However, it has a tendency to save as much energy as it can. This means that if it doesn’t frequently notice the presence of a certain nutrient, it stops producing the enzyme that breaks it down in order to save energy.

Therefore, if we suspend the intake of gluten and lactose for a long period of time, we may be causing an inability to metabolize them in the future. The result is healthy people becoming intolerant. It’s one of the greatest restriction risks that many people don’t know of; it can seriously endanger our health.

The justification to remove these nutrients from our diets is the possible intolerances that they could already generate. To support this claim, advocates for this theory rely on analytics of food intolerances that lack evidence.

As a matter of fact, the only intolerance that we can currently confirm with blood tests is gluten intolerance. To confirm a lactose intolerance, we would need a breath test.

Woman holding a piece of bread next to her abdomen

Eating gluten-free may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes

Gluten-free foods sometimes compensate for the lack of this protein with fatty acids and sugars. Therefore, this variation in the nutritional composition can have consequences for the functioning of the body.

The most immediate consequence is an increased intake of simple sugars and a reduced fiber intake. This shares a direct link to complex diseases, such as type 2 diabetes.

Furthermore, it’s also linked to the development of obesity. The studies conclude that eating gluten foods reduces the risk of diabetes by 13 percent compared to people who consume the ‘gluten-free’ variety (bibliography, 1).

People usually remove gluten from their diet in an attempt to lose weight as well. It’s true that eliminating gluten can reduce the consumption of processed and fast food. This can have a beneficial effect on our body composition in the short term.

However, increased consumption of gluten-free substitute foods would significantly worsen the quality of the diet.

The truth is that there’s no current scientific evidence to corroborate the benefits of a gluten-free diet on human health. Studies linking gluten consumption to diabetes are carried out in animal models, and they have inconclusive results (bibliography, 2).

Eating gluten-free: restrict or moderate?

Although there are foods that aren’t a great option to consume regularly, restrictions don’t usually have a beneficial effect on any diet. First, they cause psychological stress that can lead to anxiety. Furthermore, the restriction can lead to a deficit of some nutrients that could even be essential.

Therefore, a fairly effective alternative is to eat a flexible diet. It’s possible to reduce the consumption of processed foods and ingest them around the hours of physical activity if necessary. This way, we’ll take advantage of the sugar spike when doing sports.

A variety of foods with high gluten content like pasta, bread and flour

When it comes to restrictions, the only thing that deserves to be eliminated from a varied diet is toxic compounds, such as alcohol. These compounds not only not produce any benefit for the body, but also lead to worse functioning, both in the short and long term.

Furthermore, there’s evidence that the consumption of toxins increases the risk of complex diseases. Toxins are also the great enemy of sports practice since they considerably reduce the performance of those who consume them.

Conclusion

Eating gluten-free can increase the risk of diabetes. It can also generate an intolerance to the nutrient itself, due to our body’s saving system.

Therefore, it’s best to eat a varied diet in which all the nutrients are present. The variety of foods reduces the risk of nutritional deficits and improves the quality of our diets.

  1. Zong G., Lebwohl B., Hu FB., Sampson L., Dougherty LW., Willet WC., Chan AT., Sun Q., Gluten intake and risk of type 2 diabetes in three large prospective cohort studies of US men and women. Diabetología, 2018. 61 (10): 2164-2173.
  2. Haupt-Jorgensen M., Holm LJ., Josefsen K., Buschard K., Possible prevention of diabetes with a gluten-free diet. Nutrients, 2018. 10 (11).