Celiac.com 07/10/2013 - Some doctors and nutritionists have expressed concern that a gluten-free diet might increase the risk of cardiovascular problems in patients with celiac disease.

Photo: CC--geishaboy500To get closer to an answer for this question, a team of researchers set out to assess changes of multiple cardiovascular risk factors in celiac patients evaluated before and during a gluten-free diet.

The research team included B. Zanini, E. Mazzoncini, F. Lanzarotto, C. Ricci, B.M. Cesana, V. Villanacci, and A. Lanzini of the Gastroenterology Unit at the University and Spedali Civili in Brescia, Italy.

For their study, the researchers undertook a retrospective analysis of the effects of 1-5 years of gluten-free diet on indicators of cardiovascular risk and on distribution in cardiovascular risk categories in 715 celiac patients.

Compared to baseline, those following a gluten-free diet showed significantly higher body mass index (21.4±3.4 vs. 22.5±3.5; p

While on the gluten-free diet, they also showed significantly lower levels in serum triglycerides (87.9±49.5 vs. 80.2±42.8mg/dL; p

Interestingly, the gluten-free diet patients that the team categorized as falling into "lowest cardiovascular risk profile" fell from 58% at baseline to 47% during gluten-free diet, which may indicate some adverse effect of a gluten-free diet.

However, their final takeaway was that a gluten-free diet causes substantial changes to cardiovascular risk factors in celiac patients, but does not consistently point to worse or better risk profiles overall, which suggests that the diet is unlikely to contribute to the development of atheromatous plaques, or "hardening" in the walls of the arteries.

So, the short of it is that eating a gluten-free diet doesn't appear to create any added heart disease risk for people with celiac disease.

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