The gluten-free diet in children: Do the risks outweigh the benefits?

Discussion in 'Parenting News' started by runawaybunny, May 23, 2016.

  1. runawaybunny

    runawaybunny Administrator Staff Member


    The prevalence of celiac disease (CD), an autoimmune disease, is increasing. The only treatment for CD is a gluten-free diet. However, the increasing prevalence of CD does not account for the disproportionate increase in growth of the gluten-free food industry (136% from 2013 to 2015). A Commentary scheduled for publication in The Journal of Pediatrics discusses several of the most common inaccuracies regarding the gluten-free diet.

    Little is known about the motives of individuals who adopt a gluten-free lifestyle. In a study conducted in 2015 of 1,500 Americans, "no reason" was the most common explanation for choosing gluten-free foods. According to the author of this Commentary, Dr. Norelle R. Reilly, from New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, "Out of concern for their children's health, parents sometimes place their children on a gluten-free diet in the belief that it relieves symptoms, can prevent CD, or is a healthy alternative without prior testing for CD or consultation with a dietitian." Given the frequent misunderstanding about gluten, available data regarding the gluten-free diet warrant clarification.

    One misconception is that the gluten-free diet is a healthy lifestyle choice with no disadvantages. In fact, in individuals without CD or wheat allergy, there are no proven health benefits. It could increase fat and calorie intake, contribute to nutritional deficiencies, and obscure an actual diagnosis of CD. Another misconception is that gluten is toxic; there are no data to support this theory. A gluten-free diet also is not necessary for healthy first-degree relatives of individuals with CD or for healthy infants at risk of developing CD.

    For a small subset of patients who are guided by an experienced registered dietitian, a gluten-free diet can lead to better health and an improved quality of life. However, there is no scientific evidence that a gluten-free diet is beneficial for children without a verified diagnosis of CD or wheat allergy. Due to potential nutritional deficiencies and quality of life issues, it could actually pose more risk than benefit. Dr. Reilly notes that "parents should be counseled as to the possible financial, social, and nutritional consequences of unnecessary implementation of a gluten-free diet." Healthcare providers may not be able to stop the move to a gluten-free diet, but they can play a larger role in educating patients and parents.

    Source: Elsevier Health Sciences
    Journal: Journal of Pediatrics
    Image credit: AOECS (Association Of European Coeliac Societies) [Copyrighted free use], via Wikimedia Commons

    This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ConductDisorders or its staff.
  2. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Let's get a couple of things straight here.
    The "gluten-free food industry" is like any other commercial interest - their intent is simply to get lots of people to buy their product. MOST gluten-free foods produced by the "gluten-free food industry" is meant to replace common gluten-based items.

    If you are trying to eat like "everybody else" and are using these gluten-free products to do so, then yes, you are likely missing out on key nutrients, including fiber.

    However, if you are truly interested in eating healthy AND gluten-free, it's not much different than eating healthy. Foods that are closest to their original condition are the healthiest foods - fruits, berries, vegetables, potatoes, solid meat (whole chicken, chicken breast, fish, roasted or stewed meat, etc.), eggs, dairy, etc. If you drop out bread, pasta, and other gluten-based foods instead of "replacing them" with gluten-free alternatives... you are actually eating VERY healthy.

    The problem here is the gluten-free food industry.

    Just because it is gluten-free doesn't mean it's healthy. Read the labels on candy... LOTS are gluten-free. But it's still candy.
    • Agree Agree x 3
    • Like Like x 2
    • List