Delving into three decades' worth of medical data from nearly 200,000 patients, the Harvard researchers estimated the participants average gluten intake and probed which patients developed type 2 diabetes, the most common type of diabetes, over time.
Most of the participants had gluten intake below 12 grams a day, and within this range, those who ate the most gluten had lower Type 2 diabetes risk during thirty years of follow-up.
Researchers from Harvard University have found a link between gluten-free diets and type 2 diabetes.
Also, most of the participants took part in the study before gluten-free diets became popular, so there is no data from gluten abstainers. For example, some people have an intolerance to gluten, and others have Celiac disease, the researchers said.
In fact, a prior study from the National Cancer Institute discovered that those who ate the most fiber were 22 percent less likely to die from any cause than people who ate the least-and that cereal fiber was even more beneficial than that from fruits and vegetables.
The Harvard University study findings were presented at the at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology and Prevention/Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health 2017 Scientific Sessions in Portland, Oregon.
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Whilst people with coeliac disease and genuine intolerances have to avoid gluten for medical reasons, those who shun grains as a lifestyle choice could be doing more harm than good, the researchers warned.
The team approximated the gluten consumption for 199,794 individuals enrolled in three long-term studies: the Nurses' Health Study (NHS) I and II, and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS).
Most dietitians and doctors will tell you, a varied diet is key to being healthy. "Gluten-free foods often have less dietary fiber and other micronutrients [vitamins and minerals], making them less nutritious and they also tend to cost more".
So should we all rush out and gorge on bread and pasta to cut the risk of developing diabetes?
Dr Zong concluded: 'Our findings suggest that gluten intake may not exert significant adverse effects on the incidence of type 2 diabetes or excess weight gain. Market analyst Mintel claims that in 2015, 12 per cent of new food products launched in the United Kingdom carried a gluten-free claim, up from 7 per cent in 2011.
The proportion of the population whose bodies genuinely cannot stomach gluten is actually very small, so it could be that people who are perfectly tolerant of gluten are unknowingly increasing their risk of diabetes by avoiding it.