A new paper published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that healthy children fed a gluten-free diet are at a higher risk for obesity, insulin resistance disorders, critical vitamin deficiencies, as well as obscuring diagnosis of celiac disease,
Celiac disease, a rare autoimmune disorder that makes people very sick if they eat gluten, effects less than 1 percent of Americans. Celiac disease is on the rise, however the prevalence of celiac disease does not account for the disproportionate increase in growth of the gluten-free food industry (136% from 2013 to 2015)
According to the author, Dr. Norelle R. Reilly, assistant professor of Pediatrics and director of Columbia University Medical Center's Pediatric Celiac Disease , a gluten-free diet is not a healthy lifestyle choice. "Parents should be discouraged from putting their children on a gluten-free diet even where one member of the family has been diagnosed with celiac disease or a wheat allergy. Often the family will all eat gluten-free foods as a matter of convenience."
Dr. Reilly added, "out of concern for their children's health, parents sometimes place their children on a gluten-free diet in the belief that it relieves symptoms, can prevent celiac disease, or is a healthy alternative without prior testing for celiac disease or consultation with a dietitian." Parents should also be aware of results from a 10 year meta-analysis of autism therapies published in 2011 in the Journal Pediatrics which in part examined gluten and/or casein free diets as treatment for autism. The conclusion from 14 studies collectively including 188 participants ranging from 2 to 17 years of age was that the evidence supporting GFCF diets in ASD is limited and weak.
Food is a huge part of socialization. .Researchers also concluded a gluten free diet when not needed can be as hard on children socially as it is nutritionally, pointing out many of the foods served to children at school or such outings as birthday parties aren't always in agreement with such a diet.
There is a misconception that gluten is toxic, but there is no evidence to support that theory. There is also a misconception that gluten free is healthier. A study by The George Institute for Global Health that looked at 3,200 products across ten food categories found little or no difference in nutrients except in the core foods they found significantly lower levels of protein in gluten-free foods. Dr. Reilly also stated a gluten free diet may be lacking in nutrients that children need, such as vitamin B complex, vitamin D, fiber, folate, calcium, magnesium and iron.
IQed would be an exception as it's an all natural gluten and casein free food that is naturally rich in protein, over 22 vitamins and minerals, soluble fiber, Omega 3s and all the other essential nutrients required daily, which can provide healthy nutrition for someone with celiac disease or wheat allergy. IQed can be incorporated as a healthy part of a GFCF diet, but doesn't have to be.
Amazingly however, neither convenience or health are the main reasons people choose a gluten free diet.
A study conducted in 2015 of 1,500 Americans found "no reason" was the most common explanation for choosing gluten-free foods.
So clearly what is needed is education so as a parent, and as a consumer, you can make an educated choice weighing the pros and the cons of a gluten free diet when not required medically.