Could A Gluten-Free Diet Reduce Your Risk Of Diabetes?

Alternative Medicine|January/February 2020

Could A Gluten-Free Diet Reduce Your Risk Of Diabetes?
Research has examined the possibility and found some answers.
Chris Kresser

An old proverb attributed to Benjamin Franklin holds that “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When applied to chronic disease, prevention is far more desirable than cures contemporary medicine offers. In the case of diabetes, that standard may be attainable.

The prevalence of diabetes has skyrocketed in recent decades. Consider the following statistics:

An estimated 9.4 percent of the US population has diabetes, and 33.9 percent has prediabetes. Together, up to 100-million Americans are affected.

Five-million people in the US are expected to have type 1 diabetes (T1D) by 2050, including roughly 600,000 children and adolescents.

Diabetes has reached epidemic proportions and is a familiar topic on my blog. I have previously written about reversing type 2 diabetes (T2D) and more recently, how a fasting-mimicking diet might soon be a viable treatment option for T1D.

But, what if we could prevent diabetes in the first place? Wouldn’t that be the best solution? In recent years, several studies have assessed the effects of gluten on diabetes risk. Those researchers made some interesting observations regarding how gluten consumption or avoidance might affect risk for T1D and T2D. I’ll start with T1D.

The gluten–leaky gut–diabetes connection

Let’s begin by discussing the relationship of gluten to T1D. The immune system has the important job of distinguishing foreign invaders from the body’s own tissues. When this process is disrupted, the body can start to attack some of its own cells, a condition called autoimmunity. In T1D, the immune system attacks the beta cells of the pancreas. These beta cells are responsible for the secretion of the hormone insulin, and a loss of these cells results in unregulated blood-sugar levels. Individuals with T1D must rely on insulin injections or an insulin pump to manage blood glucose.


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January/February 2020