The Heart of a Celiac: Does Going Gluten-free Reduce Your Risk of Developing Cardiovascular Disease?

By Bridget

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?


3 thoughts on “The Heart of a Celiac: Does Going Gluten-free Reduce Your Risk of Developing Cardiovascular Disease?”

  1. It really is true that it can be hard to resist processed gluten free items and GF items with a lot of dairy. However, once I cut the processed gluten and dairy out of my diet completely, I lost 10 pounds and I feel so much better than I have before. I would highly suggest cutting out dairy (or as much of it as you can) and avoid those processed foods as much as possible. It is hard, because with the loss of gluten-filled foods, we want to compensate by adding other things that may not be as good for us. But it is worth it, I promise!

  2. I feel so much better since not eating processed/packaged Gluten free foods and just sticking to a fresh foods diet. To me its a no brainer to avoid what makes me feel bad, even if its a food that I love. Makes life so much easier.

  3. I was diagnosed with Celiac in 1988. Finding Gluten free products back then was a challenge to say the least. I find that fresh veggies and meat and fish. I supplement with GF products since they have come light years in taste over the years. Most products have more calories than I would like to take on so I do watch my intake. As an Italian, I like my pasta and have found great items that one would find difficult to tell the difference. Again, moderation fits the bill for those who have to be GF.

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