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Popular Gluten-Free Diet May Be Detrimental to Gut and Immune Health

Gluten free diets may have a detrimental effect on gut and immune health, according to a new study performed by the Spanish National Research Council.

The study was published in the April 2009 issue of the British Journal of Nutrition.

The researchers recruited 10 healthy individuals with an average age of 30 for the study.

The participants followed a gluten free diet for 1 month. During the dietary intervention all other aspects of their diet were not significantly changed other than the reduction in polysaccharides.

Levels of gut microflora were measured before and after the 1 month dietary intervention. The researchers found a significant reduction in levels of beneficial gut bacteria such as Bifidobacterium, Clostridium lituseburense and Faecalibacterium prausnitzii following the gluten free diet.

Furthermore, there was a reduction in a number of markers for immune health including TNF-alpha, interferon-gamma, interleukin-10 (IL-10) and IL-8.

According to the researchers, these results show that a gluten free diet not only may reduce levels of good bacteria in the gut, it can also compromise our immune system.

Gluten free diets are increasing in popularity as a mechanism for losing weight, but these new findings show that such a diet may be disadvantageous for overall health.

These findings are also important for people suffering from celiac disease (intolerance to gluten in wheat), a condition that affects 1.2% of adults.

The researchers note that further research will be necessary to find ways to combat the negative effects a gluten free diet may have on beneficial gut bacteria.

Probiotic supplements contain "friendly" bacteria that are similar to the beneficial microorganisms found in your gut. Maintaining a healthy level of good bacteria plays a crucial role in digestive health, immune system function, and has even been shown to reduce the risk of some cancers.

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