By Melissa Mackay
Produced for online by Natalie O’Brien
Researchers in the United Kingdom have released the results of a 26-year study, saying gluten consumption has no adverse effects on health.
The gluten-free fad has become one of the most popular ‘health food’ diets with sales of gluten-free products increasing by more than 12 per cent in the past year.
Researchers at the British Medical Journal warn that avoiding gluten without an intolerance could potentially lead to heart problems.
Brisbane dietitian Erika Harman says without a valid medical reason, people aren’t doing themselves any good by leaving gluten out of their diet.
“When people did eliminate gluten, what they were doing is they were putting themselves at an increased risk of cardiovascular heart disease by doing that, because they were limiting foods like wholegrains,” she says.
As well as potential health issues, Ms Harman says going ‘gluten free’ is often more expensive.
“A family including two children would be paying 13 per cent, roughly, more than their budget towards food if they included gluten-free foods over ordinary foods,” she says.
University student Emma Rumble suffers from Coeliac disease, and the only form of treatment is a strict, life-long gluten-free diet.
She says if she were given the choice, she wouldn’t avoid gluten at all.
“It gets frustrating just when I’m eating out at restaurants and people in cafés think it’s a health craze and they don’t take it seriously, so I’m having to spend so much more at cafés and restaurants, or even just at the supermarket,” she says.
Going ‘gluten-free’ has become so popular in the last few years it is almost impossible not to see a variety of options on cafe menus.
Cafe manager, Vicky Hopkins, says working around dietary requirements can be expensive for not only the business, but the customer as well.
“Especially when it comes to items like gluten-free breads, gluten-free cakes, it costs more, as the flour is so much more expensive, and then we have to pass that cost on to the customers otherwise it’s out of pocket for us,” she says.
Medical professionals encourage those without a gluten intolerance to eat wheat products as normal.