The Risks of a Glutenfree Diet if it’s not Necessary

Coeliac disease, the auto-immune disease causing an intolerance towards gluten, has been on the increase. Studies have shown a more than 4-fold increase since the 1950’s. The only management of this intolerance is a gluten-free diet. In reality this means avoidance of all nutrients and foods containing gluten. Since wheat products contain a particularly high amount of gluten, they are the first ones this concerned have to give up: pizza, pasta, bread and the likes. The food industry has reacted by offering more and more gluten-free  alternatives, typically at a much higher price.

Over the last couple of years, a trend towards a gluten-free diet for no health reasons or diagnosed intolerance has been observed: a recently published STUDY showed that the majority of those questioned, had no reason to eat gluten-free. This should not come as a surprise as only approximately 1 percent of the population is typically intolerant to gluten.  More and more parents decide that a gluten-free diet should be part of their own and their child’s healthy lifestyle. Many assume that this approach prevents their children from developing coeliac disease. Most of the children treated by their parents with such an approach, have not been tested for any food intolerances or sensitivities.

In a critical review published in the JOURNAL OF PEDIATRICS, Dr. Norelle R. Reilly discusses the myths and misconceptions of a gluten-free diet:

  • there is no scientific proof that a gluten-free diet should be part of a healthy life-style: site the opposite, a gluten-free diet may cause an a diet higher in calorie and fat intake.
  • a gluten-free diet may make the diagnose of coeliac disease more difficult
  • no research supports the idea that gluten is “toxic” or poisonous
  • for a small proportion of patients a gluten-free diet may have a positive effect on their quality of life but this should not lead to a general consequence for healthy individuals.

Dr. Reilly strongly advises parents to be careful in their decision to choose a gluten-free diet for their child if they have not been diagnosed by a medical professional.