BEACON TRANSCRIPT – A new study performed by scientists at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) found that, as much as people might hail the benefits of gluten free foods, they could be dangerous too. A gluten free diet might bring dangerous amounts of toxic metals, such as mercury or arsenic.
Maria Argos, an assistant professor of epidemiology, is the leading author of the study. She explained how a gluten free diet which everybody regards as healthy could be bad for our bodies. Such a diet replaces wheat, rye, and barley with rice flour. This is where the problem is, since rice is known to accumulate arsenic and mercury from soil, water, and fertilizers.
For the study, they took data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey on thousands of Americans aged between 6 and 80. Here, they found 73 people who declared following a gluten free diet.
The researchers compared the data from those 73 people to the others who ate other diets and found that the gluten free people had double levels of arsenic in their urine and the levels of mercury in their blood were 70 percent higher than those of the other people.
However, Argos and her colleagues declared that they need more research to establish if such a diet can pose a great health risk.
Such diets are recommended for people that suffer from celiac disease. This disease implies a strange response to the protein that can be found in rye, wheat, and barley. Only one percent of Americans suffer from this disorder, but almost one quarter of the American population reported switching to a diet which is free of the protein.
Many of those who switched to a gluten free diet declared that they did so since they think it might reduce harmful inflammation. However, there is no scientific evidence in support of this claim.
Arsenic and mercury occur, indeed, in a natural way in the environment, but high quantities in the bodies raise the risk of neurological problems, heart disease, or even cancer. The study might question the safety of a gluten free diet, but it shows no direct link between the diet and the high toxin levels.
In Europe, there are special regulations on foods that might be exposed to arsenic. If the arsenic in rice proves harmful, maybe the U.S. might need such regulations, too.
Image Source: Flickr