Gluten isn’t as bad as you think for your children

There has been a lot of buzz about gluten-free diets being among the healthiest types of diets. It isn’t uncommon for parents to be very concerned about whether a product they’re buying for their children has some gluten in it, and if it does, it isn’t uncommon either for that product to become off-limits to the kids. But a new article published this week in the Journal of Pediatrics suggests that gluten might not be as harmful to children after all. In fact, gluten-free diets might even be dangerous to most kids.

“The increasing popularity of the GFD [gluten-free diet] has important implications for children,” said Columbia University Medical Center’s Dr. Norelle Reilly in an article called The Gluten-Free Diet: Recognizing Fact, Fiction, and Fad. “Parents sometimes place their children on a GFD in the belief that it relieves symptoms, can prevent CD [celiac disease], or is a healthy alternative without previous testing for CD or consultation with a dietitian.”

Gluten is a protein that can be found in different kinds of food, including wheat, barley, rye, and different processed food products. But, as Reilly said in her article, gluten isn’t necessarily a toxic substance. She adds that children on gluten-free diets are at more risk than their parents may think, as they may be in greater danger of vitamin deficiencies, new-onset insulin resistance, and obesity.

“There is no evidence that processed gluten-free foods are healthier than their gluten-containing counterparts, nor have there been proven health or nutritional benefits of a GFD, except as indicated previously in this commentary,” Reilly continued. “Yet those who purchase gluten-free foods outside of a GFD and apart from treatment of disease comprise the bulk of gluten-free product consumers.”

As Reilly pointed out, the only time a child should be on a gluten-free diet is if they suffer from celiac disease, a hereditary condition that is found in only one out of 100 people worldwide. That disease is specifically treated by eliminating gluten from the diet.