Recently one of celiac.com’s headlines read, “Does a Gluten-free Diet Protect Celiacs Against Heart Disease? Or Does it Hurt?” Obviously this question is interesting to many particularly because, as of 2010, heart disease is one of the top five leading causes of death, according to CDC statistics.
There are several studies that support both sides of the hypothesis that a gluten-free diet could either increase or reduce risk of cardiovascular problems, which leads me to my own hypothesis – it’s all about what you eat!
Researchers have found that Celiacs who follow a gluten-free diet significantly reduce body inflammation, by cutting out the irritants that can lead to other problems, and therefore reducing the risk of heart disease (as cardiovascular health risks are characterized by increased inflammation affecting the blood, veins, and ultimately the heart). Moreover, a lot of Celiacs follow a largely unprocessed diet to avoid any and all cross contamination. By choosing whole fruits and vegetables, gluten-free grains, and low-fat dairy items, you are choosing the foods that help improved health and protect against chronic health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and ultimately heart disease.
The conflicting evidence follows the hypothesis that many people suffering from Celiac disease follow a diet that disproportionately favors fat over gluten-free grains. I can see how this could be a quickly developing problem, particularly for people who are newly diagnosed. Many gluten-free recipes call for heavy cream, cheese, butter, and oil to help enhance the flavor of meals that are otherwise gluten-free. All these substitutions can increase the saturated fat on a celiac’s plate, thereby increasing the bad cholesterol in their diet, leading to more inflammation and a greater risk for cardiovascular diseases.
Ultimately, much of our disease risks can be associated with what we eat. Though we can’t control our predisposition to certain diseases due to genetics (our struggle with Celiac disease being the number one example of this.), we can improve our health through choosing good foods that help our bodies function more easily (like eating gluten-free foods, in spite of Celiac disease!)
What do you think? Do you think its hard to resist the saturated dairy fats and processed gluten-free goodies, or do you feel better when you cut out the man made food and stick to nature’s creations?