Although gluten-free products are popular among many dieters, recent research suggests that they have a high intake of mercury and arsenic. According to Maria Argos, lead researcher from the University of Illinois, Chicago, gluten-free foods contain rice flour which is a common substitute for barley, rye, and wheat.
Argos, who is also an assistant professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health, says that rice usually accumulates mercury and arsenic from water, soil, and fertilizers. In the study, the scientists analyzed medical records from thousands of U.S. citizens with ages between six and eighty.
According to the researchers, 73 people confessed that they followed gluten-free diets. Based on the study findings, participants who consumed gluten-free products had twice the arsenic levels in the urine as well as seventy percent higher mercury levels in the blood compared to the other subjects.
Argos notes that although the findings are very important, she and her team need stronger evidence that gluten-free products contain elevated levels of mercury and arsenic. The doctors usually recommend gluten-free diets to patients with celiac disease, a condition which consists of an automatic immune response to gluten.
This protein is found in barley, rye, and wheat. Roughly one percent of U.S. adults live with this disorders, but approximately 25 percent of the American citizens reported consuming gluten-free foods, based on the survey conducted in 2015.
There is a common misconception among consumers who believe that eating gluten-free products reduces inflammation. The health officials underline the fact that there is no scientific proof supporting this claim. The study authors say that mercury and arsenic are naturally occurring metals.
However, if they are consumed, they increase the risk of cognitive decline, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Although the study didn’t reveal any connection between gluten-free foods and the two toxic metals, some European countries adopted regulations to restrict food-based exposure to arsenic.
Argos believes that the United States government should also consider introducing such regulations. Besides reducing the arsenic levels in water, the lawmakers should try to regulate the mercury and arsenic levels in foods too.
The study authors will continue their research. Also, they will raise awareness among Americans who consume gluten-free products on a daily basis.
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