Going gluten free may help protect you from heart disease, particularly those with rheumatoid arthritis. A new study published in Arthritis Research and Therapy showed that rheumatoid arthritis patients lowered their risk of cardiovascular disease, particularly atherosclerosis, by following a gluten-free, vegan diet. Atherosclerosis is the build-up of arterial plaque.
Researchers at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, put 38 patients with rheumatoid arthritis on a gluten-free, vegan diet for one year. Meanwhile, 28 patients with rheumatoid arthritis ate a well-balanced, nonvegan diet for the same time period. Not only did the patients following the vegan diet lose weight and lower their body mass index—a measure of body fat—but total cholesterol and LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels also decreased significantly. In addition, patients practicing a vegan diet experienced an increase in certain antibodies—called anti-PCs—which, according to the study, may protect against atherosclerosis.