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Pulses and pulse flours have a very favorable nutritional profile for people with celiac disease, providing important nutrients that are often lacking in a gluten-free diet.

The Celiac Disease and Type 1 Diabetes Connection: Pulses are a Great Food Choice for Both


A connection between celiac disease and type 1 diabetes has emerged in recent research. According to a paper published in the International Journal of Pediatrics and Endocrinology, the prevalence of celiac disease in type 1 diabetes populations around the world ranges between 2.4% to 16.4%. Symptoms of celiac disease in type 1 diabetes can vary greatly but can include gastrointestinal upset, anemia, weight loss or poor weight gain, growth failure, delayed puberty, unexplained hypoglycemia or erratic blood glucose levels and low bone mineral density. Many individuals are asymptomatic or have mild or subtle symptoms that may not be recognized as celiac disease. In the majority of patients, type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed before celiac disease.

Pulses are a naturally good food choice for both celiac disease and diabetes. In terms of celiac disease, the only treatment is a gluten-free diet for life which means that all forms of wheat, rye and barley must be strictly avoided. Although a wide variety of gluten-free flours, cereals and starches are available and used in making gluten-free foods, most of these products are not enriched and/or are made from refined flours and starches that are low in vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre. Pulses and pulse flours have a very favorable nutritional profile for people with celiac disease, providing important nutrients that are often lacking in a gluten-free diet. In particular, they are high in fibre, iron and B vitamins.

For people with diabetes, pulses are also a well suited food choice because they have a low glycemic index and contain high amounts of complex carbohydrates including soluble and insoluble fibre, resistant and slowly digestible starch. These types of complex carbohydrates release glucose more gradually into the blood stream versus simple sugars that break down quickly and cause a rapid release of glucose. A gradual release of glucose into the blood is very important for controlling blood sugar levels in diabetes.

On February 28th, Pulse Canada hosted a webinar presentation on “The Importance of Pulses in Gluten-Free Foods” by Shelley Case, registered dietitian, author, speaker and member of the Medical Advisory Boards of the Celiac Disease Foundation and Gluten Intolerance Group in the USA, and the Professional Advisory Board of the Canadian Celiac Association. The webinar was recorded and is available for playback at http://www.pulsecanada.com/news-multimedia/webinars.