Just Because Something Is ‘Gluten-Free’ Does Not Mean It Is Good For You!

There are two extremes on the gluten-free continuum… Completely unprocessed, whole foods… Real food which are naturally gluten free.

And on the other extreme – the commercially available, manufactured ‘gluten-free’ range of foods.

The first is, I believe, healthy… a natural diet of gluten-free foods – fresh grass-fed meat, well-sourced (with minimal contamination) fish, organic vegetables, legumes, eggs, fruits, and nuts and seeds.

However, it is the other end of the continuum I plan to explore in this post… the processed, commercial end.

Is Gluten-Free Food Connected With Increased Risk of Cancer?

This week I had a very interesting conversation with someone who had heard on television that gluten-free eating could be dangerous, leaving people more vulnerable to cancers and diabetes type 2, as well as a whole host of other issues.

My reaction was one of irritation but not surprise that a well known TV doctor would be talking about this in such black or white blanket terms. But as I said to her it is an incredibly controversial topic, possibly rating nearly up there with the debate over childhood vaccinations.

I have looked into some the latest headlines because

  1. I have a very real interest in this area and want to understand, and ensure I have accurate information
  2. My family eat gluten free. We are not celiac, but we are gluten sensitive.

Let’s look at this claim first…

The suggestion is that two new studies show that

“Gluten-free diet may increase risk of arsenic, mercury exposure. The summary states – People who eat a gluten-free diet may be at risk for increased exposure to arsenic and mercury — toxic metals that can lead to cardiovascular disease, cancer and neurological effects, according to a report in the journal Epidemiology.”

You could be understandably alarmed, however read on… What the researchers are reported to have found seems to be that people who are eating gluten-free processed products (manufactured and sold by big food companies) which very often contain rice flour as a replacement for wheat flour, have raised levels of arsenic, mercury as well as some others nasties.

Rice is well-known to store and accumulate toxic metals found in the soil and water from the fertilisers and pesticides, including mercury and arsenic. So I suppose it should come as little surprise that if people are swapping their gluten-filled bread, and junk food for gluten-free bread and junk food made with high proportions of rice flours, that they are having high levels of these toxic heavy metals in their body.

These heavy metals are associated with the maladies listed.

So perhaps

  • A far more accurate headline could be that People Who Eat Processed Gluten-free Products Are Being Poisoned By the Food Companies!
  • This doctor should report more accurately the details of the study before scaremongering to suit his own biased views!
  • More research should be done on people who eat gluten-free REAL food, that which doesn’t come in a package!

It doesn’t appear from these articles I read that it is the lack of gluten that is the problem but the processed ingredients packed into the gluten-free substitutes.

Is Gluten-Free Food Connected With Increased Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes?

The second claim I read about during this research time was a possible connection between gluten free and diabetes type 2.

Now when I read these things I have to say I am so sceptical because I eat gluten-free and I eat an amazing diet of fresh, natural foods. I do wonder how anyone can really imagine a standard American diet can really be healthier than a real, fresh and unprocessed food diet…

But I am open-minded and want to get to the truth.

Here is a detailed discussion on the methodology of this study done by Harvard University which was reported at an American Heart Association meeting.

And here is what I understand as discussed in the aforementioned post…

  • The researchers did not study one person who was gluten-free!
  • Association between low gluten and diabetes risk could be seen… But this was possibly likely because low fibre diets could show up as low gluten, and low fibre diets are proven linked with higher diabetes risk. If this is the case, gluten-free eaters can easily mitigate against eating low fibre by including higher fibre foods
  • Massive study groups over 30 years gathering huge amounts of information to study links between disease and a variety of factors, this was not dedicated research in anyway to gluten
  • Gluten intake was estimated from reports of the subjects’ diets
  • Reduced gluten was not shown to be causative of diabetes but was associated with increased risk. But why? Low fibre? What? From this research, we just don’t know very much


The link here has been drawn to suggest it is the reduction of gluten that was perhaps causing a higher link to diabetes but read deeper and it seems to be saying the connection is that those eating less cereal fiber and therefore less gluten had the increased risk. The cereal fiber is insoluble dietary fiber and indeed we do know that there is a very probable link between low intake of dietary fiber and increased risk of diabetes type 2.

We are able to get our fiber, soluble and insoluble, from other sources apart from gluten, wheat and gluten-free products, see here!

For far more on the subject of fiber in the diet from a gluten free amazing woman Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, Ph.D. (aka Paleo Mom) see here and here.

Whatever diet we choose to eat, gluten-free or not, we need to be doing so responsibly, and ensuring balance. Fiber is a crucial part of that balance. Just as are the other macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fat) and micronutrients (including vitamins and minerals).

  • Gluten-free (and non gluten-free) processed products often have refined ingredients stripped of fiber, vitamins and minerals, so swapping ‘like for like’ can lead to nutritional deficiencies, especially in minerals and vitamins when they are heavily relied upon in the diet
  • These products are loaded with unhealthy fats, sugar and chemicals. And this cocktail of junk in our food are all associated with inflammation, obesity, sickness.

So Processed Gluten-Free Is Not Good For You!

So these big headlines go a long way to proving the point that manufactured, processed gluten-free food is NOT good for you!

As Dr Hymen states in this link.

‘Gluten free junk food is still junk food…’

Watch his powerful, quick message in this video.

Money, Money, Money

The gluten-free food market is predicted to be worth 7.59 billion U.S. dollars by 2020. This is big money.

The food manufacturers want us buying these products. They want your money! Your health is not their primary concern whatever the advert says.

  • Be suspicious of what they offer, the claims they make
  • Read ingredient list on labels, if you can’t pronounce it, question whether you should be eating it!!!
  • Count the chemicals included in the ingredient list, do you really want to eat them?
  • If it needs to come in plastic packaging, question whether you really want to eat it
  • Go for fresh, natural foods, organic where possible

But a diet free from gluten does NOT need, or require these processed products! There are plenty of natural, whole and real foods which provide the nutrients and balance we require to thrive.

Informed, Responsible Diets With Balance Are Key

Again I would state that the food we eat needs to be balanced and thought out responsibly, whether gluten free or not. An informed diet is key for all of us.

This post from MindBodyGreen has this conclusion which I couldn’t put better myself so I quote,

“The point is that a healthy gluten-free diet includes a nutrient dense, anti-inflammatory dose of healthy fats and proteins, organic produce and grain-free flour alternatives such as almond flour, coconut flour and hazelnut flour. When going gluten free is done wrong, it’s the overpriced food version of diet soda; just as unhealthy as the original, if not more.”

Junk food, gluten-free or not, is still junk food!

Do you want to eat junk?


The information provided in this blog post is designed to provide helpful information regarding lifestyle, health and wellness; for educational purposes only. The information is not meant to be used, nor should it be used, to diagnose or treat any medical condition. For diagnosis and treatment of any medical condition please consult your medical professional.

Always consult your healthcare professional for your individual needs, and it is also recommended to do so before starting any new dietary or exercise program.

About the author

Judith Ansty

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