Gluten and T2D
Gluten entered our diet about 10,000 years ago in Mesopotamia when our ancestors began eating cereals. Gluten is a protein naturally found in many grains including wheat, barley, and rye. It acts like a binder, holding food together and adding a “stretchy” quality. Today cereals are an essential food source around the world and more than 50% of the world's daily caloric intake is derived from consumption of cereals.
Low carb diets have been popular for years, including gluten free diets. The claimed benefits of the diet are improved health, weight loss and increased energy, but more research is needed. Many people associate gluten with obesity or weight gain. While a gluten-free diet is essential for managing signs and symptoms of celiac disease and other medical conditions associated with gluten, is it necessary or helpful for people without gluten allergies?
What IS beneficial about gluten in our diets and why are there so many people going gluten free these days? Let summarize the benefits of both and how they impact type 2’s.
Benefits of Gluten for Type 2’s
Whole grains and carbohydrates are a healthy and important part of your diet. They should account for around 60 percent of your diet each day. It is important that you are choosing unprocessed wheats, oats, kasha, or rice and a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
One of the BIGGEST benefits of gluten is the complex carbohydrates your body needs and FIBER! Research has consistently shown that, for people with type 2 diabetes, eating more fiber can help improve blood glucose control. Fiber helps regulate the body's use of sugars, helping to keep hunger and blood sugar in check. Fiber also helps us feel full, have a healthier gut and regulates our bowel movements.
Limiting gluten in the diet is associated with lower intake of cereal fiber and possibly other beneficial nutrients that contribute to good health such as B vitamins and folate found in carbohydrates, as well as the iron, calcium and vitamin D.
The Cleveland Clinic explains that, “Processed or refined grains have the healthy outer layers stripped off. Food manufacturers will remove the outer layers of the grains in order to create a commercially successful product for consumers. This milling process mechanically removes the bran — the fiber-rich outer layer which contains B vitamins and minerals. Milling also removes the germ layer that contains essential fatty acids and vitamin E.” Therefore, avoid the “fake” carbs that overly processed and stripped of all nutrients. These have added salt, sugar, fat, calories etc.
Additionally, many processed gluten-free products have an increased glycemic index with increased fat and less protein compared to meals that contain gluten. This can actually cause weight gain. The processed foods associated with gluten AND gluten free products are unhealthy. Losing weight isn’t about gluten - a desire to lose weight is the wrong reason to go gluten free.
Gluten Free Benefits
Consumption of gluten is believed by some to affect many aspects of human health and is hypothesized to contribute to the diabetes pandemic. Some people believe gluten causes weight gain, type 2 diabetes and excess inflammation. However, we do not have enough evidence about this.
It is important to note that gluten is a problem only for those who react negatively to it, or test positive for celiac disease. Most people can and have eaten gluten most of their lives, without any adverse side effects”, Harvard School of Public Health.
The most common cases where gluten free is a healthy choice are in cases where someone has identified serious side effects caused by gluten! Some people’s bodies recognize gluten as a toxin and attack. If you have celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, gluten ataxia or a wheat allergy then you should pay close attention to gluten. Instead of grains with gluten, enjoy grains, starches or flours that are part of a gluten free diet such as: buckwheat, flax, corn, quinoa, rice, soy etc.
Some people claim that the gluten-free diet may improve glycemic control for diabetic patients, although that is still controversial, as some studies support the idea and others suggest there is no difference in glycemic control between normal diabetic patients and diabetic patients with celiac disease on a gluten-free diet.
Evidence regarding the role of a gluten free diet in T2D isn’t clear. Some studies have linked intake of a GF diet to reduced obesity and T2D and suggested a role in reducing leptin- and insulin-resistance and increasing beta-cell volume. However, it is not proven. Nutritionists and scientists around the world agree that gluten is not the bad guy and whole grains and carbohydrates are a healthy and important part of your diet.
If you suspect you have a wheat or gluten allergy, consult with your doctor.
For more information about living a healthy lifestyle with type 2 diabetes, join our online community Winning Type 2 Diabetes Together!