MONDAY, July 23, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Child-targeted gluten-free products do not appear to be healthier, with similar levels of sugar and poor nutritional quality as product equivalents, according to a study published online July 23 in Pediatrics.

Charlene Elliott, Ph.D., from the University of Calgary in Canada, purchased all child-targeted food products from two major supermarket chains to compare the nutritional quality of products with a GF claim to those without such a claim.

Elliott found that, compared with child-targeted products without a GF claim, child-targeted GF products had lower levels of sodium, total fat, and saturated fat, and also had less protein, and a higher percentage of calories from sugar. Both GF and regular products designed for children can be classified as having poor nutritional quality according to the Pan American Health Organization criteria (88 versus 97 percent). GF products had similarly high levels of sugar when analyzed in light of their product equivalents without a GF claim (79 versus 81 percent).

“GF supermarket foods that are targeted at children are not nutritionally superior to regular child-targeted foods and may be of greater potential concern because of their sugar content,” Elliott writes. “The health halo often attributed to the GF label is not warranted, and parents who substitute GF products for their product equivalents (assuming GF products to be healthier) are mistaken.”

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