A new study claims that going gluten free might not be worth the risk for children.
A gluten-free diet could be doing more harm than good to a child who doesn’t have celiac disease, claims a new study.
The study suggests that parents should think twice before introducing a gluten-free diet to their child, as it may increase risks of obesity, new-onset insulin resistance, and deficiencies of a number of critical vitamins and nutrients, according to an Elsevier Health Sciences statement.
The study takes aim at the growing popularity of diets that eliminate gluten, which is a protein found in rye, wheat, barley, and processed foods. Parents often place their children on a gluten-free diet to prevent celiac disease, or to relieve symptoms often associated with celiac disease.
Celiac disease is a hereditary autoimmune condition that affects a very small percentage of people — just one in 100 worldwide. That hasn’t stopped gluten-free diets from being enormously popular in recent years, with supermarkets offering a range of products that advertise the fact that they are gluten free.
“The prevalence of celiac disease (CD), an autoimmune disease, is increasing. The only treatment for CD is a gluten-free diet,” the statement reads. “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).”
The author claims that the idea that a gluten-free diet has no unhealthy side effects is a “misconception,” and parents should be aware of this.
“In fact, in individuals without CD or wheat allergy, there are no proven health benefits,” the statement reads. “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.”