While a gluten-free diet has been shown to be beneficial for both those with celiac disease and those without, the jury is still out on whether going gluten free can help benefit those with type 1 diabetes.
Recent research has determined that there is a relationship between type 1 diabetes and celiac disease, since both diseases result in the body’s immune system mistakenly attacking itself. For those with type 1, the immune system targets the beta cells of the pancreas, so they no longer can produce insulin, while for those with celiac, the lining of the small intestine is attacked, and wheat products are no longer digestible.
Still, the differences between the two disorders are significant enough that experts aren’t yet certain if a gluten-free diet can benefit those with type 1.
According to a study appearing in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston reviewed the benefits of a gluten-free diet for patients with both celiac disease and type 1, and found that the diet was not associated with the improved glycemic control that is necessary to keep diabetes symptoms in check.
Part of the problem, according to Dr. Maureen M. Leonard, who headed the study, is that many gluten-free foods are high on the glycemic index, so they are more likely to lead to blood sugar spikes.
Too, those with both celiac and type 1 diabetes were less likely to adhere to a gluten-free diet compared to those with celiac disease alone.
Those with celiac disease are unable to eat foods containing wheat, semolina, wheat germ, matzo, farina, barley, couscous, rye and spelt, as well as some medications.
“There is still much to be learned about the relationship between celiac disease and type diabetes,” the researchers wrote. “Although the benefit of a gluten-free diet in patients with classic and subclinical celiac disease is strong, the role of gluten-free diet in potential celiac disease or in general in patients with type 1 diabetes is unknown.”