(CNN)Over the past few decades, millions of people around the world have distanced themselves from gluten, eliminating gluten sources from their diets, even if their doctors haven’t recommended they do so.
The gluten-free diet has a long history of treating people with celiac disease, a digestive disorder in which your body is abnormally sensitive to gluten, a protein component of wheat, rye, barley and crossbreeds of those grains.
Now, going gluten-free has become something of a nationwide obsession in the United States and is increasing in popularity globally.
A study published in the journal Epidemiology this month found that people eating a gluten-free diet — 73 adults out of 7,471 in the study — had higher concentrations of arsenic in their urine and mercury in their blood.
Those toxic metals might be linked to gluten-free eating through consuming large amounts of rice, which is known to absorb inorganic arsenic as it grows.
All in all, for those who need to consume a gluten-free diet as a treatment for celiac disease, Watkins recommends to keep at it.
“This is a lifetime disorder that is treated with a gluten-free diet to allow healing of the gut. But when this is achieved, it doesn’t mean you can go back to a gluten-containing diet,” she said.
2017: What the future may hold
Fasano hopes the pendulum on gluten’s reputation will swing in the opposite direction, from painting gluten as a monster back to depicting it as a simple protein that some can healthily digest and others cannot.
“The pendulum was all the way to left, where before, the pioneer patients with celiac disease really had a hard time to survive,” Fasano said.
“Now. the pendulum is all the way to the right, where this is a fashionable diet,” he said. “I think that in the future, we will see a readjustment of the pendulum. and hopefully we’ll go back to where it belongs. I of course think everybody with celiac disease needs to be on a gluten-free diet. The people that will be affected by other gluten-free-related eating disorders, like wheat allergy or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, should go on a gluten-free diet, and then there is a question mark for others.”