Study finds gluten-free diets may be high in arsenic and mercury

Americans have been amidst a low-and-no gluten dieting craze, with many individuals swearing off the protein despite not having celiac disease. Whether gluten sensitivity is a real thing is still a hot debate topic and not without its controversy, but that's neither here nor there. A new study recently published in Epidemiology has found that cutting gluten entirely out of your diet may result in an increased consumption of heavy metals, causing higher-than-average levels of arsenic and mercury to develop in your body over time.

To test whether this is the case, researchers with multiple universities and colleges tested the urine from individuals on a gluten-free diet, which itself was determined using self-reported answers to survey questions. The test looked at the total urinary arsenic level from arsenite, arsenate, monomethylarsonic acid, and dimethylarsinic acid, though it excluded the non-toxic forms arsenocholine and arsenobetaine.

Ultimately, only 1.2-percent of the 7,471 individuals surveyed reported being on a gluten-free diet — that is, a total of 73 volunteers. After adjusting for a bunch of factors, including urinary biomarker dilution, age, ethnicity, and sex, the researchers found that gluten-free individuals had higher than normal levels of total arsenic in their urine, as well as high blood mercury and urinary cadmium levels.

The researchers speculate that the high levels of rice consumption among gluten-free dieters (rice is usually substituted in the place of gluten-rich grains) may be responsible for the higher levels of toxic metals. Says these researchers, there is 'emerging evidence' that rice-based foods may have 'high levels of toxic metals.' The health implications of these higher levels are unclear at this time.

SOURCE: Epidemiology