Some medical experts say putting children on a gluten-free diet without talking to a doctor first might be damaging to their health.
A gluten-free diet usually rules out grains like wheat, barley, rye, bread and pasta, and is popular with some celebrities and athletes, notes The Telegraph.
Those who usually need to be on a gluten-free diet are people who suffer from celiac disease. An estimated one percent of Americans have celiac disease, but the gluten-free industry has millions of customers who don't need gluten-free products, notes CBS News.
Dr. Norelle R. Reilly, a pediatric gastroenterologist, wrote a new report published in The Journal of Pediatrics addressing the potential risks involved when a child is put on a gluten-free diet, according to the Telegraph:
There is no evidence that processed gluten free foods are healthier nor have there been proven health or nutritional benefits of a gluten free diet. There are no data to support the theory of intrinsically toxic properties of gluten in otherwise healthy adults and children.
Gluten free packaged foods frequently contain a greater density of fat and sugar than their gluten-containing counterparts.
Obesity, overweight and new-onset insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome have been identified after initiation of a gluten-free diet.
It also may lead to deficiencies in B vitamins, folate, and iron, given a lack of nutrient fortification of many gluten-free products.
Reilly said being on a gluten-free diet without seeing a doctor first may jeopardize a real medical diagnosis for celiac disease. She also noted that some may think a gluten-free diet can somehow prevent celiac disease, but there is no science to support that claim.
Jennifer Willoughby, a pediatric dietician who was not involved in the report, told CBS News:
Especially in a young child, when we're looking at removing basically an entire food group from the diet, if there aren't enough appropriate substitutions in there, we run the risk of poor growth, malnutrition and missing out on a lot of their necessary vitamins and minerals. They lose out on a lot of B vitamins, a lot of iron, and fiber if the diet is not followed in a proper way.
"[Replacement foods for gluten-free diets] tend to be very processed, higher in fat and higher in sugar, and surprisingly to a lot of people they're actually higher in carbohydrates," Willoughby added.