If you were to only get your news from British tabloids like The Sun and happened to live a gluten-free life—a fairly unlikely combination, we know—you're probably pretty fucking terrified right about now. That's because both publications are warning readers that a gluten-free diet "increases your risk of heart disease" and "may be putting millions of Britons at risk of heart attacks."
The thing is, these boldly declarative assertions are only about half true, and have less to do with reality than they do with deriding posh Millennials for refusing to eat Jaffa Cakes.
In a study published this week in the medical journal BMJ, researchers state that a gluten-free diet will not lower your risk of heart disease, and are urging the public to understand that "the promotion of gluten-free diets among people without celiac disease should not be encouraged."
The assertion that gluten-free diets are "putting millions of Britons at risk of heart attacks" comes down to the fact that during the course of the study—which utilised data gathered by more than 110,000 US health professionals over a 26-year period—the researchers found that a higher gluten intake appeared to correlate with a lower risk of heart attacks.
But the finding has nothing to do with eating gluten itself, and is believed to be true because "restricting gluten may result in a low intake of whole grains, which are associated with cardiovascular benefits." In other words, if you cut out gluten, you're cutting out many forms of heart-protective fibre and whole grains.
This is by no means the first study that has debunked health myths associated with a gluten-free lifestyle. As we reported previously, a 2015 study from Australia's The George Institute for Global Health found that the only notable difference regarding "healthiness" between gluten-free products and their gluten-containing counterparts was that the gluten-free food contained "significantly lower levels of protein."
Luckily, 99 percent of Americans don't happen to have celiac disease and 82 percent don't show any measurable signs of gluten intolerance, so even if you are still deeply concerned about having a heart attack as you knock back some sorghum biscotti, there's a pretty simple solution available.