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," 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.
Additional Information from HealthyChildren.org: