Nutrition News

A Gluten-free Diet Might Harm Your Healthy Child

By Photograph by Pdeitiker - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain

A new study in the Journal of Pediatrics has shown that a gluten-free diet might be harmful to a child without celiac disease.

According to the study, healthy children fed a gluten-free diet are at a higher risk for obesity, insulin resistance disorders and critical vitamin deficiencies.

The study strikes at the heart of the popularity of gluten-free diets.  The author of the study claims that the idea of no side-effects of a gluten-free diet is a “misconception”.  In a statement the author goes on to say:

In fact, in individuals without CD or wheat allergy, there are no proven health benefits

Celiac disease is an auto-immune condition that is hereditary.  It only affects a small percentage of people but the statement from the author says that the number has been increasing.

ABC News’ chief health editor, Dr. Richard Besser, says that gluten-free is a trend that is “all about marketing”.  He goes on to state that

If your child has celiac disease … then gluten is a big deal, otherwise it’s not

The article cited a 2015 study where 35% of people gave “no reason” as their explanation for going gluten-free.  This is important because when an adult in the family starts on a diet the rest of the family generally goes along.

Celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltro endorses gluten-free diet and is one reason why “gluten-free” foods has rapidly grown in popularity.  However, many gluten-free foods can lack the nutrients that are necessary, even critical, for a growing child.  Jennifer Willoughby, a pediatric nutrition specialist at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital states:

They lose out on a lot of B vitamins, a lot of iron, and fiber if the diet is not followed in a proper way.

Gluten is a protein and is present in many grains including rye, barley and wheat.  People affected by celiac disease suffers from inflammation of the the small bowel as the body over-reacts to the presence of gluten.

The author is a Columbia University gastroenterologist and appears in the Journal of Pediatrics commentary section.  The article is titled “The Gluten-Free Diet: Recognizing Fact, Fiction, and Fad”


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