Doctors suggest that it may not be the best idea to keep your child gluten-free.
A new study suggests that placing your child on a gluten-free diet may do more harm than good. According to a report from CBS News, the commentary, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, suggests that eliminating gluten in a child’s diet could result in a number of nutritional deficiencies.
According to the study’s author, Dr. Norelle R. Reilly, a pediatric gastroenterologist from New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University’s Medical Center, “I think there’s a side to the story of the gluten-free diet that’s not often in information that’s readily accessible to families and pediatricians.”
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, and has been the subject of much debate in the nutritional world in recent years. A gluten free diet is the only known effective treatment for celiac disease, a disorder that leads to damage in the small intestine as a result of exposure to gluten.
Reilly examined the growing misconceptions surrounding gluten and the perceived health benefits of a gluten-free diet. Surveys have indicated that many people believe that omitting gluten from their diet entirely is a healthy lifestyle decision with no negative repercussions. The study pointed out, however, that there is no research supporting the belief that a gluten-free diet has benefits for people without celiac disease.
Dr. Reilly says the risks of making a misinformed decision about gluten could be even more pronounced when made on behalf of a young child. By removing an entire food group from a child’s diet, parents run the risk of leaving a nutritional gap, which can lead to problems with development later on down the line.
“An individual with celiac disease needs monitoring for a variety of autoimmune conditions and vitamin deficiencies that can go along with the disease, and there could be complications of the disease that require surveillance,” said Reilly. “So there is a difference between how we would manage somebody who’s gluten-free out of preference versus somebody who is gluten-free because they have celiac disease.”
Reilly recommends consulting a physician or dietician before placing a child on a gluten-free diet.
A press release describing the details of the study can be found here.