RECENT STUDY REVEALS GLUTEN FREE DIETS ARE HARMFUL TO CHILDREN
- "Gluten Free Diets may Be Risky for Kids" LiveScience
- "The Gluten-Free Diet in Children: Do the Risks Outweigh the Benefits?" ScienceDaily & MedicalPress
- "Why Parents Need to Stop Forcing Kids to Eat Gluten-Free" The Boston Globe
These are a few of the hundreds of similar headlines being cranked out by today's mouthpieces for health. They are based on a commentary from last week's issue of the Journal of Pediatrics by Dr. Norelle Reilly (a pediatric gastroenterologist at Columbia University) called The Gluten-Free Diet: Recognizing Fact, Fiction, and Fad.
It's tough to argue against the fact that NUMEROUS FACTORS have been changing our modern grains for decades --- making them increasingly problematic as far as human health is concerned. This is at least part of what has led to a significant increase in in the AUTOIMMUNE CONDITION known as Celiac Disease (not to mention NUMEROUS OTHER AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES) --- something that Dr. Reilly at least partially admits to at the beginning of her article ("The prevalence of CD is increasing, reflected by escalating awareness of CD in the scientific community").
At this point her article begins to look like a tirade against the "GLUTEN-FREE FOOD INDUSTRY" --- something I would readily join her in. She says, "This increase in CD, however, does not account for the disproportionate increase in growth of the gluten-free food industry. According to market research, consumers without CD purchase the vast bulk of gluten-free products." While this is undoubtedly true, it certainly isn't good.
When I suggest to a patient that they start researching GLUTEN and GLUTEN CROSS-REACTORS as potential contributors to their health problems, I try to get them to at least contemplate undertaking a GLUTEN FREE ELIMINATION DIET. Typically, this is the best approach for people to figure out what foods might be driving INFLAMMATORY PROCESSES in their bodies. Furthermore, when people do go Gluten Free, I strongly suggest they stay far away from the "Gluten Free" isle of the grocery store. Reilly goes on to say.....
"For individuals who do not have CD, wheat allergy, or NCGS, the latter which has been described in adults but for which there is little evidence in children, there are no data supporting the presumed health benefits of a GFD. In fact, the opposite may be true in certain cases.... There is arguably no role for a GFD for children outside of treatment of CD and wheat allergy. The likelihood of a diagnosis of NCGS in children is unclear, given the limited data available describing pediatric populations with NCGS."
I believe that the key to Dr. Reilly's entire paper --- right or wrong --- lies in understanding NCGS (Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity), which, AS I HAVE SHOWN YOU DEFINITIVELY, is far more common than the standard one to three percent of the population that has Celiac Disease. Dr. Reilly, however, says that "The prevalence of NCGS ranges from about 0.5% to 6% according to recent reports.... It is not clear whether it is gluten to which individuals react. Recent evidence has supported the hypothesis that certain people with sensitivity to fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols [FODMAPs] may be misclassified as having NCGS. Other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome [IBS], small bowel bacterial overgrowth [SIBO], and fructose and lactose intolerance may be responsible for symptoms in those self-diagnosed with gluten sensitivity." Let me show you why even though her the first sentence in her quote above might be technically true, it's extremely misleading.
Firstly, lactose intolerance (or intolerance to dairy period) and Gluten intolerance frequently go hand in hand. Secondly, as far as fructose intolerance is concerned; because of the rise of HFCS, it is becoming increasingly common and severe. And lastly, when it comes to the millions of individuals struggling with IBS or SIBO; FODMAPS are a huge consideration. Bottom line; people with these particular problems may not show positive with the various forms of Gluten Testing. However, when you take them off Gluten, their symptoms usually improve --- often times quickly and dramatically. So whether they actually have NCGS or some other problem affected by Gluten is a moot point as far as their health is concerned. Dr. Reilly actually proves this with the first sentence in the "Discussion" section of her paper. "It is undeniable that many people perceive benefit from a GFD, often without a clear scientific explanation."
She even goes on to chide parents who use a Gluten Free Diet for their AUTISTIC CHILDREN. "Data supporting the use of this diet in children with autism spectrum disorders are scant and have not been confirmed in double blinded studies." If you follow my blog, you know that I think studies are grand. But what do we seem to find over and over again when it comes to medical research? We often find data that has been fudged, results that are all over the place, not to mention the fact the the medical community continues to ignore any and all "EVIDENCE-BASED MEDICINE" they don't care for (click the link for examples). To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure I've ever met a parent of an autistic child who, after getting serious about GAPS, PALEO, or similar diets, did not see some fairly radical changes in their child.
The craziest thing that Dr. Reilly says in her paper is that, "Obesity, overweight, and new-onset insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome have been identified after initiation of a GFD. A GFD also may lead to deficiencies in B vitamins, folate, and iron, given a lack of nutrient fortification of many gluten-free products." The first sentence, while certainly true, is a red herring --- a no-brainer designed to distract us from the issue at hand. If you are eating lots of high glycemic-index crap, whether it's GLUTEN-FREE CRAP or Gluten-containing crap, you should plan on living with METABOLIC SYNDROME, DIABETES, and OBESITY. This is because even though you may not be consuming an iota of Gluten in your diet, you are LIVING THE HIGH CARB LIFESTYLE. And as for her second sentence.....
If your children are getting their (SYNTHETIC) B-VITAMINS (folate included) from things like breakfast cereal, BREAD, or pasta (which is the EQUIVALENT of white bread), they are going to end up as another statistic. When grains are milled, everything living and good is removed (or "bleached"). This is what allows processed foods to sit on the shelf --- sometimes indefinitely (think pasta or cold cereal here) --- and not rot, spoil, or mold.
A couple penny's worth of CHEAP SYNTHETIC VITAMINS are added during the processing so that we can call it "fortified" or "enriched". The people who promote this as a good thing are the same sorts of people who were telling your parents and grandparents that FORMULA WAS BETTER THAN BREAST MILK. Honestly, Dr. Reilly's efforts would have been better spent not trying to convince people to eat more processed grains (LIKE HUFFPO DID awhile back), but in convincing parents to act the part of the parent, get their kids to stop munching Cheetos, and eat their vegetables (HERE). The problem is, way too many parents don't even realize there's a problem (HERE).
Does every child need to live Gluten Free? Certainly not. But if they have chronic health issues of almost any sort, Gluten is something to at least ponder. I used to promote testing for NCGS and Gluten Cross Reactivity. However, because of high costs, false negatives / positives, and the general inaccuracies so common to many medical tests, I simply recommend that you have your child follow an ELIMINATION DIET for a couple of months and figure out whether or not certain foods might be a contributing (or even causal) factor in their health issues. As is always the case, get the express written consent of your pediatrician before attempting any of these death-defying tricks at home.