Health Gluten-free foods contain more fat, sugar and are not a healthy substitute to regular products, experts say By News Desk Posted on May 30, 2017 4 min read 1 0 2,483 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr Gluten-free foods should not be considered a healthy substitute to regular food because they usually contain high levels of fat and sugar, and low levels of protein, experts have said. Researchers from European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) have called for the widespread reformulation of gluten-free products so they match the products they replace. The warning follows an assessment of 654 products from 25 brands that were compared to similar items containing gluten. It found that gluten-free food has a significantly higher fat content and a poor nutritional composition in comparison to regular products. Many of the products that contained gluten — especially breads, pastas, pizzas and flours — also contained up to three times more protein than their gluten-free substitutes. The researchers warn that the imbalance is so severe it could affect children’s growth and increase the risk of childhood obesity. Dr. Joaquim Calvo Lerma, a ESPGHAN researcher, said “As more and more people are following a gluten-free diet to effectively manage celiac disease, it is imperative that foods marketed as substitutes are reformulated to ensure that they truly do have similar nutritional values. This is especially important for children, as a well-balanced diet is essential to healthy growth and development.” Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley and gives food a chewy texture and elasticity during the baking process. Around one per cent of Britons have Celiac disease, meaning they are genuinely gluten-intolerant and face a string of debilitating symptoms including vomiting, nerve problems, anaemia, inflammation and an increased risk of coronary heart disease. However some estimates put the proportion of adults adhering to gluten-free diets in the U.K. at more than 12 per cent. Experts also warned that consumers are often unaware how unhealthy gluten-free products are because of poor labelling. Dr. Sandra Martinez-Barona, joint lead researcher, said: “Where nutritional values of gluten-free products do vary significantly from their gluten-containing counterparts, such as having higher levels of saturated fat, labelling needs to clearly indicate this.” Dr. Naveed Sattar, a professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow, said people should be aware that gluten-free does not mean it is healthy. Sarah Sleet, chief executive of Coeliac U.K. said high fat levels in gluten-free breads was “concerning” and called on manufacturers to find healthier alternatives. She said: “Lower protein levels are unsurprising, given the ingredients used to replace wheat flour. Higher fat levels in gluten-free breads is more concerning.” The findings were presented at ESPGHAN’s 50th Annual Congress.