Roundup: Gluten-Free Diets Could Harm Your Heart Health, Study Finds; Older Women Can Benefit From Continued Cervical Cancer Screening

“Gluten-free” diets or products have become widespread but a new study warns that you may be putting your heart health at risk by shunning healthy whole grains.

“The promotion of gluten-free diets among people without celiac disease should not be encouraged,” the researchers concluded in their article, published in the medical journal BMJ. Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that makes people sick if they eat gluten.

However, most people who buy gluten-free products don’t have celiac disease or even a mild sensitivity to wheat. Experts estimate that less than 1 percent of Americans have celiac disease. In some cases, those not diagnosed with celiac disease can have a milder reaction to gluten, which is referred to as non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS).

In the new study, researchers reviewed data from a long-running study of more than 110,000 U.S. health professionals. The participants periodically answered questions, over a 26-year period, about their diets. The researchers estimated how much gluten participants’ consumed in their diet. The researchers also collected data on whether participants experienced a heart attack during the study.

Researchers found that those people in the group that ate the most gluten were at no greater risk for a heart attack than those in the group that ate the least gluten. Moreover, they also found that gluten intake appeared to be linked with a lower risk of heart attack. The study’s authors concluded that the lower risk was the result of consuming whole grains associated with gluten intake.

Researchers wrote that there is a still-growing misconception about the effects of gluten. “The reasons for gluten reduction likely relate to the perception that gluten carries adverse health effects … One national survey showed a steep rise in interest in this diet in recent years, and by 2013 nearly 30% of adults in the US reported that they were trying to minimize or avoid gluten.”

U.S. dietary guidelines recommend that at least half of your daily servings of grains be “whole grain.” That’s about three servings a day for most people. Eaten regularly, whole grains are high in fiber and can help reduce risks of heart disease, diabetes and even certain cancers. Most whole-grain foods contain gluten.

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Older Women Can Benefit From Continued Cervical Cancer Screening

Cervical cancer is a disease often thought to affect mostly young women. However, for women who have not had a hysterectomy, rates of cervical cancer increase with age until about age 70, and do not begin to decrease until age 85, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

In 2013, one-fifth of cervical cancer cases and one-third of deaths from cervical cancer happened among women age 65 years and older, says data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS).

Current guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommend routine cervical cancer screening can be discontinued for women at average risk only after three negative cytology results, or two negative co-test results within the previous 10 years — with the most recent test within the last 5 years.

The research data found the amount of women who had not been screened recently increased from 12 percent of women in their 40s to nearly 25 percent of women ages 66 to 70.

“An older woman who has not had her cervix surgically removed has the same or even higher risk of developing cervical cancer compared to a younger women,” said lead investigator Mary C. White, chief of the Epidemiology and Applied Research Branch, Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Women who have not had a hysterectomy need to continue to be screened until age 65, and possibly later if they have not been screened for many years or are at special risk.”

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No Benefits From Alternate-Day Fasting Diet, Study Says

There is no advantage to a diet that involves fasting every other day, despite the popularity of this weight-loss technique, according to a new study.

Alternate-day fasting does not work better than traditional dieting, according to authors of the year-long study which involved 100 “metabolically healthy obese adults.”

For the study, published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers assigned one group of people a traditional restricted-calorie diet (eating about 25 percent of their normal daily calories). Another group was told to fast every other day (eating 25 percent of their normal calories on fast days and 125 percent on the other days) for a year.

Meanwhile, a control group which didn’t follow any specific diet was also included. At the end of the year, people in the standard diet group and the fasting group lost similar amounts of weight compared with those who didn’t do any type of diet at all.

The alternate-day fasting group had the highest dropout rate: 38 percent quit the study, compared with 29 percent for the calorie restriction group and 26 percent for the control group.

Researchers also found no significant difference between the groups in the reduction of cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol or triglycerides.

The new study is believed to be the longest and largest trial of alternate-day fasting to date.

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