Going 'gluten free' when you don't need to is linked to a huge health risk.

We see it blasted across cereal boxes and vege chip packets and special loaves of bread.

It’s always written in earthy colours next to a blurb promising good health and zero bloating and enhanced energy levels. The ‘gluten free’ promise makes it that much easier to spend $4 on 75 grams of pretzels.

But now, research has shown that – unless you have coeliac disease – eating a gluten free diet might increase your risk of heart disease.

The study is called Long term gluten consumption in adults without coeliac disease and risk of coronary heart disease and was yesterday published in The BMJ medical journal.

It comes after a rise in popularity of gluten-free foods. For example, in 2014 the number of people in the US committing to a gluten-free diet tripled, even though the number of people diagnosed with coelic-disease remained stable.

“The popularity of a low gluten or gluten-free diet in the general population has markedly increased in recent years,” the report states.

Don't go gluten free if it's not necessary. Image: iStock

"Despite the limited evidence that gluten plays a role in cardiovascular health, this increasing adoption of a gluten-free diet by people without coeliac disease has occurred."

The researchers out of New York and Boston in the US analysed data from 64,714 women and 45,303 men working in the health industry. None of the participants had a family history of heart disease.

The participants' diets were assessed every four years between 1986 and 2010. They were asked about the type of foods they ate, and at what frequency.

The researchers found those who lived by a low-gluten or gluten-free diet consumed significantly fewer whole grains than those who had an unrestricted diet.

What you don't know about your body. Post continues below.

Why is this a problem? Whole grains are protective against cardiovascular disease.

"Whole grain intake has been found to be inversely associated with coronary heart disease risk and cardiovascular mortality," the authors wrote.

"These findings underscore the potential that people who severely restrict gluten intake may also significantly limit their intake of whole grains, which may actually be associated with adverse cardiovascular outcomes."

Translated: If it's not broke, don't fix it. Just because something says 'gluten free' doesn't mean it's good for you.