Gluten free diets are not recommended as a way to defeat childhood obesity

September is childhood obesity month.

That means we don’t try to make children obese in September. It is meant to bring about awareness of the problem and offer solutions to help address the problem for children who may be headed for a lifetime of health issues related to weight.

Not all overweight kids will grow to be obese adults.

I think making too much of a fuss over overweight children can backfire. A lot of overweight adults struggle with their weight as a result of all of the diets well-meaning adults forced them to follow as children. Moreover, many skinny kids grow up to be unhealthy adults. Childhood weight isn’t a reliable predictor of adult obesity.

Remember that skinny kid in grade school who blew up in college?  It happens all the time, so I don’t think it’s smart or wise to worry too much about a child’s weight. Certainly all kids, no matter what they weigh, should be fed and treated according to the same guidelines.

Kids are not mini adults. What may be okay for adults, can be a mistake to apply to children. Adult mistakes can have even worse consequences for kids. One such mistake is trying to help an obese child lose weight with a gluten-free diet. There are already far too many adults eating a gluten-free diet for the wrong reason.

Gluten free food industry is a billion-dollar industry.

Most people who buy gluten-free foods don’t have celiac disease or even a gluten sensitivity. They buy gluten-free foods because they think it’s healthier and gluten is what’s making them fat. Both reasons are wrong, but don’t expect the makers of gluten-free foods to set them straight.

If gluten-free diets are a fad and not especially healthful and they don’t even promote weight loss or even advance weight loss efforts. Cutting gluten out of an adult’s diet who doesn’t have celiac doesn’t do anything to help improve overall health or weigh less. If an adult wants to go gluten-free for some misguided reason, I don’t care, but here’s why no child should be likewise restricted.

Grains are healthy

Whole grains are an important source of fiber. Fiber does lots of good things for every body – old, young, fat and skinny. It helps with digestion, regulating bowel movements, stabilizing blood sugar levels, and helping prolong a feeling of fullness satiety after a meal. Fiber is an aid in weight loss.

Whole grains are packed naturally with vitamins and phytochemicals that help fight cell damage. Refined grains are typically fortified with vitamins, some of which a child may not get enough of them from other foods in their diets. Removing fortified grains from their diet could result in certain vitamin deficiencies.

Gluten-free diets isolate kids

Gluten-free isn’t healthier and it doesn’t help with weight loss, but here is what it does do. It makes it hard for a kid to blend in with other kids. They can’t eat what their friends are eating. When they get invited to a birthday party they have to pass up much of the food that’s served (pizza and birthday cake) for no good reason. If you’re thinking, “see, that how a gluten-free diet helps kids lose weight,” you have it all wrong.

No pizza for the fat kid on the gluten-free diet.

Keeping kids from being like other kids is not how they lose weight. It may push them towards finding comfort somewhere else because they feel both “deprived and different.” Food may be what they use for that purpose.

If they start to eat more gluten-free foods, they could easily gain weight because many gluten-free foods have more sugar and fat in lieu of the grains to make them palatable. Replacing grain with sugar and fat can make the calories of gluten-free foods, serving for serving, much higher in calories.

“In a commentary published in the Journal of Pediatrics, author Norelle Reilly, MD, an assistant professor of pediatrics and director of pediatric celiac disease at Columbia University, warns that without a medical diagnosis, there’s no evidence to support a gluten free diet for children.”

– Parents: The Scoop on Food


The care and feeding of obese children is no different than that of normal weight or underweight kids.
Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. She is a Weight Watchers success story. She's a weight loss expert with 25 years of experience guiding women and men to their weight-related goals. Her articles on weight management have been published in health, family and women's magazines. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news, FOX network morning program Good Day Maine and 207 on WCSH.