High Gluten Intake Isn't Associated with Excess Risk for Coronary Heart Disease

Summary and Comment |
June 8, 2017

High Gluten Intake Isn't Associated with Excess Risk for Coronary Heart Disease

  1. Paul S. Mueller, MD, MPH, FACP

In fact, during 26 years of follow-up in observational cohorts, high gluten intake conferred some protection against CHD.

  1. Paul S. Mueller, MD, MPH, FACP

In people with celiac disease, the gluten found in barley, rye, and wheat triggers an inflammatory response. Some studies have suggested that celiac disease might be associated with excess risk for coronary heart disease (CHD), but whether gluten intake itself is associated with CHD is unknown. Researchers evaluated associations between long-term gluten intake and risk for CHD (fatal or nonfatal myocardial infarction) among 65,000 women in the Nurses' Health Study and 45,000 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study without CHD or celiac disease at baseline.

Gluten intake was estimated from food questionnaires that were completed every 4 years between 1986 and 2010. During 26 years of follow-up, participants in the lowest quintile of gluten intake had a higher CHD incidence than participants in the highest-intake quintile (352 vs. 277 events per 100,000 person-years). The association between high gluten intake and lower CHD risk persisted after adjustment for numerous potential confounders.

Comment

Some of my patients without celiac disease are switching to gluten-free diets on the belief that it's healthy. However, this study suggests that for at least one measure of health —coronary disease — the reverse might be true: High gluten intake was associated with lower — not higher — risk for CHD. The authors note that “avoidance of dietary gluten may result in low intake of whole grains, which are associated with cardiovascular benefits.”

Editor Disclosures at Time of Publication

  • Disclosures for Paul S. Mueller, MD, MPH, FACP at time of publication Consultant / advisory board Boston Scientific Editorial boards Medical Knowledge Self-Assessment Program; MKSAP 18 General Internal Medicine Leadership positions in professional societies American Osler Society (Board of Governors)

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