(HealthDay News) — Individuals with the least gluten in their diets appear to have a slightly higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes over a few decades, according to a study presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention/Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health 2017 Scientific Sessions, held from March 7 to 10 in Portland, Ore.

Geng Zong, Ph.D., of Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues evaluated data on 199,794 U.S. health professionals whose health and lifestyle habits were followed over three decades. Over 30 years, 15,497 study participants developed type 2 diabetes.

The investigators found that study participants who ate the least amount of gluten had a somewhat higher risk of developing diabetes over time. Most people consumed no more than 12 g of gluten each day, with the average being 6 to 7 g. Those in the top 20 percent for gluten intake were 13 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, versus those in the bottom 20 percent — who typically ate fewer than 4 g of gluten each day.

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“Gluten-free foods often have less dietary fiber and other micronutrients, making them less nutritious and they also tend to cost more,” Zong said in news release from the American Heart Association. “People without celiac disease may reconsider limiting their gluten intake for chronic disease prevention, especially for diabetes.”

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