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A gluten-free diet excludes foods that contain gluten - a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, as well as the byproducts of these grains. According to recent statistics, almost 30% of Americans are avoiding gluten whether they are Celiac sufferers or not in the quest for better health.

For people with celiac disease - an autoimmune condition whereby gluten intake leads to intestinal damage - a gluten-free diet is the only treatment for the condition.

Rice flour is a common substitute for gluten in many gluten-free products. Argos and colleagues point out that rice can bioaccumulate arsenic, mercury, and other potentially harmful toxic metals from water, soil, or fertilizers.

Study co-author Maria Argos, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), and colleagues recently reported their findings in the journal Epidemiology.

Exposure to these metals has been associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other diseases."Despite such a dramatic shift in the diet of many Americans, little is known about how gluten-free diets might affect exposure to toxic metals found in certain foods," note the authors.
Argos and team analyzed the data of 7,471 individuals who were a part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2009 and 2014.

The researchers identified 73 participants aged between 6 and 80 who reported following a gluten-free diet.

Blood and urine samples were taken from all participants and assessed for levels of arsenic and mercury.

The researchers found that levels of each toxic metal were much higher among subjects who followed a gluten-free diet than those who did not eat gluten-free products; mercury levels were 70 percent higher in the blood of gluten-free subjects, while arsenic levels in urine were almost twice as high.
According to Argos, these findings suggest that there may be "unintended consequences of eating a gluten-free diet," though further studies are needed to confirm whether this is the case.

The researchers add that:

Argos points out that there are regulations in Europe that limit arsenic levels in food products, and he suggests that the United States might benefit from similar regulations.

"We regulate levels of arsenic in water, but if rice flour consumption increases the risk for exposure to arsenic, it would make sense to regulate the metal in foods as well," he adds.

I have been advising people to vary and rotate grains for years for this very reason. Eliminating foods unnecessarily can cause toxic build up and a diminished nutritional status. This study would support following my advice.

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Taryn DeCicco ND, LAc, LDN of Apple A Day Clinic in Arlington Heights, IL has been specializing in acne, skin, and digestive disorders for over 16 years.