Celiac disease, a serious autoimmune disorder affects about three million Americans with 97 percent of them being undiagnosed, according to the University of Chicago. While people affected by the disease are told strictly to have gluten-free diet, even people without the condition have begun adopting the diet.

“One in five Americans say they actively try to include gluten-free foods in their diet, while 17 percent say they avoid gluten-free foods,” announced a Gallup poll results in 2015.

However, is it advisable to stop consuming gluten completely to avoid getting celiac disease? To answer this, let us first understand what actually gluten is.

Gluten is a common name for the proteins found in grains such as wheat rye, barley and triticale, which is a cross between wheat and rye. It is responsible for the elastic texture of dough. For gluten sensitive people, consumption of gluten triggers a serious immune response damaging the inside of small intestine. Because of this, the nutrients from food are not absorbed properly. The current treatment for celiac disease is to follow a strict gluten-free diet.

Symptoms of celiac disease are diarrhoea, anaemia, bone ache, and a severe skin rash called dermatitis herpetiformis. However, often the disease had few or no symptoms at all.

People without the condition have started going gluten-free over beliefs that refraining from gluten will help them get higher energy, quick weight loss, and lower levels of inflammation. But, a study released by Harvard University earlier this month quashed those beliefs.

The study published in the British Medical Journal on May 2 found that cutting down gluten can increase a person’s risk of cardiovascular issues problems. After examining group of over 64,000 women and 45,000 men from 1986 to 2010, the researchers found long term gluten intake was not associated with heart diseases. However, staying away from gluten increased the chances of heart problems in the respondents.

"Although people with and without celiac disease may avoid gluten owing to a symptomatic response to this dietary protein, these findings do not support the promotion of a gluten restricted diet with a goal of reducing coronary heart disease risk," the study said. "The promotion of gluten-free diets for the purpose of coronary heart disease prevention among asymptomatic people without celiac disease should not be recommended."

Apart from this, the fact that refraining from gluten means also avoiding whole grains, has become a cause of concern among health experts. Gluten is not only found in wheat, barley, and rye, but also whole grain foods related to wheat, including bulgur, farro, kamut, spelt.

"And any time you eliminate whole categories of food you’ve been used to eating, you run the risk of nutritional deficiencies," Peter H.R. Green, M.D., director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University, tells WebMD. "Eating a healthy gluten-free diet means paying constant attention to what you eat. This isn’t something that anyone should do casually."

While, going gluten-free is the only way for those affected with celiac disease, keeping a distance from gluten for those without the condition is matter of concern "unless people are very careful, a gluten-free diet can lack vitamins, minerals, and fiber," says Green.