FRIDAY, May 21, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Going gluten-free is a trend that brings benefits to the mind and body, but a new study finds no evidence that gluten is bad for the brain.
Among about 13,500 middle-aged women, the researchers found no relationship between eating wheat, barley or rye (the sources of gluten) and mental capacity.
According to the study’s authors, the only people who mentally benefit from avoiding gluten are people with celiac disease who can’t digest it.
“Those who do not have a history of true gluten sensitivity due to celiac disease should not follow a gluten-free diet assuming they will improve their brain health,” said lead author Dr. Andrew Chan, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and vice president of gastroenterology at Massachusetts General Hospital, both in Boston.
“This contrasts with some anecdotes and popular press that gluten was harmful and could contribute to cognitive impairment or so-called‘ brain fog, ’” he said.
All study participants had participated in Study II of Nursing Health, a study of risk factors for chronic disease in women. As part of this study, both dietary data and mental function were evaluated. Mental ability tests included speed, attention, and memory. None of the women had celiac disease.
Based on these data, Chan and his team found no effect of gluten on mental capacity. They assume they would find the same result among men, he said.
“We found that among individuals with no history of celiac disease, a low-gluten diet was not associated with any improvement in cognitive function,” Chan said. “Evidence simply does not exist to support modifying the diet for this purpose.”
According to Harvard University, the gluten-free food industry grew 136% between 2013 and 2015, with nearly $ 12 billion in sales during 2015, and most people who buy the products do not have celiac disease. People without celiac disease who adopt a gluten-free diet may have an increased risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome, a set of diseases that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist at NYU Langone Health in New York City, examined the findings and agreed that gluten will not rot the brain.
“Ignore the falsehood of fear and misinformation about gluten being a brain poison,” he said. “People who don’t have a medical reason to avoid gluten, such as celiac disease, a wheat allergy, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, can eat gluten-free foods without fear that these foods will cause cognitive impairment or inflammation. cerebral palsy “.
What affects brain health are other diseases that can be prevented primarily, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity, Heller said.
Type 2 diabetes is associated with an approximately double risk of dementia, and studies have found that patients with heart disease have a 45% increased risk of impaired thinking skills. People who are overweight or obese are at higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, he said.
“Let’s focus on what we can do to prevent these all-too-common diseases,” Heller said. “The approach is similar for all of them and also helps increase brain health.”
- Include physical activity in your daily routine. Running, walking, swimming, cycling, doing yoga, dancing, anything you like.
- Add more vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, asparagus, carrots and zucchini, to your meals; all vegetables are good for you.
- Eat fresh, seasonal fruit.
- Enjoy more whole grain products such as 100% whole wheat bread, multigrain cereals and cookies, oats, buckwheat and bulgur.
- Switch from butter-like fats to vegetable oils such as extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, or rapeseed oil.
- Swap animal proteins (burgers, cheese, steak, charcuterie, pork) for beans, nuts, nut butter, edamame, tofu, seitan, and vegetarian burgers.
- Stay well hydrated with drinking water, seltzer or tea (herbal or traditional).
The study was published online May 21 in the journal JAMA Network Open.
For more information on gluten, visit Harvard University.
SOURCES: Andrew Chan, MD, MPH, Professor, Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Vice President, Gastroenterology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston; Samantha Heller, EM, RDN, senior clinical nutritionist, NYU Langone Health, New York; JAMA Network Open, May 21, 2021, online