HealthDay News — According to a study published in Epidemiology, higher levels of arsenic and mercury have been identified in individuals consuming gluten-free diets.

Catherine Bulka, MPH, from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and colleagues examined cross-sectional associations between self-reported gluten-free diet status and urinary and blood biomarkers of toxic metal exposure. 

Data were included for 7471 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey participants, of whom 73 self-reported being on a gluten-free diet.

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The researchers found that those on a gluten-free diet had higher concentrations of urinary total arsenic, two estimates of total arsenic, dimethylarsonic acid, urinary cadmium, and blood total mercury in adjusted analyses. 

The weighted geometric mean concentration of estimated urinary total arsenic, defined as total arsenic minus arsenobetaine and arsenocholine, was nearly two-fold higher for those on a gluten-free diet (geometric mean ratio, 1.9), after adjustment for sociodemographic characteristics and urinary creatinine. 

The results were near null for associations with gluten-free diet for urinary and blood lead, blood cadmium, and blood inorganic mercury. The results were similar on restricting the sample to adults with additional adjustment for income and educational attainment.

“While our study is cross-sectional and relies on self-reported data regarding gluten-free diets, it does suggest that future studies are needed to more fully examine exposure to toxic metals from consuming gluten-free foods,” the authors write.


Bulka CM, et al. “The Unintended Consequences Of A Gluten-Free Diet”. Epidemiology. 2017. doi: 10.1097/EDE.0000000000000640. [Epub ahead of print]

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