Experts say that gluten-free diets may be more harmful, than beneficial, for kids without celiac disease or wheat allergies
A news report based on a new commentary paper published in The Journal of Pediatrics warns about the risks of gluten-free diets in healthy children. Eating gluten-free is getting more and more popular; according to Mintel Group, a market research company, the number of Americans who consumed gluten-free food increased from 8% in 2013 to 25% in 2015 while celiac disease (CD) affects only 1% of the population in the United States. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (a condition where people suffer from gluten-induced gastrointestinal symptoms) may affect up to 6% of Americans.
Parents often have misconceptions about gluten and they may think that a gluten-free diet is healthy, can prevent CD, or may ease CD symptoms. There is no scientific proof that a gluten-free diet is beneficial for healthy individuals. However, following a gluten-free diet without consulting a specialist first can be risky. Store-bought gluten-free products often contain more sugar and fat than their wheat counterparts, and studies have shown that a gluten-free diet may cause obesity in some people. In addition to this, following a gluten-free diet may result in nutritional deficiencies as these products often contain less vitamins and minerals. The report also said that researchers haven’t found a connection between when children start eating gluten and their risk of celiac disease, therefore it is not proven yet that a gluten-free diet can prevent CD in children. Furthermore, gluten-free products tend to be more expensive and eating only gluten-free food often results in social isolation.
While a gluten-free diet is the only treatment for CD, eating gluten-free as a healthy individual may be risky, especially for children. Parents have to be aware of the possible financial, nutritional and social consequences of an unnecessary gluten-free diet in healthy kids.
Written By: Dr. Fanni R. Eros