Are gluten-free products for children as healthy as their gluten-based counterparts? A study in the August 2018 issue of
Pediatrics, “The Nutritional Quality of Gluten-Free Products for Children,” (published online July 23) examined the nutritional content of gluten-free products marketed specifically to children to see how they measured up to their traditional counterparts. The authors purchased over 350 child-targeted products from two of the largest supermarket chains in Calgary, Canada and compared the nutritional quality of the gluten-free labeled products to the products without such a claim. A secondary analysis further compared the nutrient profile of child-targeted gluten-free products to their product “equivalents”. The findings revealed that products labeled gluten-free are not nutritionally better compared to “regular” children’s foods (those without a gluten free claim) or to their gluten-containing equivalents. In fact, approximately 80 percent of child-targeted gluten-free products have high sugar levels, while 88 percent of the packaged gluten-free foods aimed at children can be classified as of poor nutritional quality due to high levels of sugar, sodium and/or fat. Many of the gluten-free foods for children also had less protein and a similar percentage of calories from sugar compared to child-targeted products without a gluten-free claim. The authors say the study should make parents of children with gluten intolerance and/or sensitivity, along with parents purchasing gluten-free products for other health reasons, aware of the need to carefully look at product labels when making purchases.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org and follow us on Twitter @AmerAcadPeds