'Gluten-Free' Probiotics: Are they Really Gluten Free?

'Gluten-Free' Probiotics: Are they Really Gluten Free?

In a study conducted by researchers at the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) in New York, it was found that many probiotic supplements that are labeled as ‘gluten free’, in fact contain traces of gluten. The results of the study will be presented this week at the Digestive and Disease Week meeting in Washington D.C.

The researchers analyzed 22 probiotic supplements, which are tablets that contain ‘good’ bacteria that help keep the digestive system healthy. Most of the probiotics in the sample were labeled as ‘gluten free’. What was found was rather appalling. As much as 55 percent of the supplements had detectable levels of gluten. Out of these, 18 percent had beyond acceptable levels.

The manufacturers of the supplements are to be held responsible for such labeling, as, as per FDA standards, a product containing less than 20 parts per million of gluten would be considered gluten free.

The study is essential from the point of people who suffer from gluten allergy, a condition called ‘Celiac disease’. Such people experience an immune reaction if they eat something containing gluten and this reaction can damage the intestine. However, they can consume up to 10 milligrams of gluten per day and not experience any symptoms.

The supplements tested contained gluten way below this level. Therefore, it was difficult to establish whether they could pose a health risk for people with Celiac disease. But, a previous study by the same team of researchers had found that there was indeed a link between taking supplements and experiencing symptoms in people suffering from Celiac disease. Also, the effect can vary if these people consumed larger doses of the supplement, totaling to the upper limit they can withstand.

Thus, it appears that labels claiming a product is gluten free should not be trusted, at least when it comes to probiotics.

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