Unintended Problems with Gluten Free Diet

by Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN on September 21, 2017 · 0 comments

Research done at the University of Illinois at Chicago attempted to find out if people who eat a gluten-free diet may be exposed to higher levels of arsenic and mercury. In 2015, 25% of Americans reported eating gluten-free foods. In many of these foods, rice flour is substituted for gluten-containing wheat flour.

Evidence suggests that rice-based foods may contain higher levels of metals because rice accumulates metals, notably arsenic and mercury, from fertilizers, soil and water. Seventy-three people who self-reported eating a gluten-free diet were tested. Their concentration of urinary arsenic was nearly double those who did not eat gluten-free and they had increased levels of mercury in their blood.

Because this was the first known study to measure arsenic and mercury levels in people who eat a gluten free diet there is no way of knowing if these levels will increase the risk for cancer or other chronic disease. But it does point to a possible problem that needs to be examined further.

What does this mean to you? Consider carefully the reasons you have chosen to eat more gluten-free foods. For those with diagnosed celiac disease the reasons are clear, but for many others it may be time to re-examine your decision based on this new information.

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