Many Probiotic Supplements Contain Gluten Traces
Avoiding gluten completely is a tough chore, many find. And the worst part about it is that gluten proteins exist virtually ubiquitous within the food chain.
Trying to define just what is gluten-free has also become hard, as even the FDA’s standards for labeling a product as “gluten-free” still allow a gluten content of 20 parts per million.
Adding more fuel to the fire is a new finding from the Columbia University Medical Center. They found that more than half of the top-selling probiotic supplements they tested contained gluten.
The researchers from CUMC’s Celiac Disease Center conducted a liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry analysis of 22 popular probiotic brands. The products were purchased online from Amazon.
The analysis revealed that 12 of the 22 products contained traces of gluten. Of these, four brands contained more than the FDA’s permitted levels of 20 parts per million in order to be gluten free.
More than half of the probiotic samples were labeled gluten-free, but many of those showed positive on the gluten test. Two of the brands labeled gluten-free were also over the FDA permitted level of 20 parts per million.
In a press release from the medical center, lead author Dr. Samantha Nazareth – a gastroenterologist at CUMC – commented on the purpose of the study:
“Many patients with celiac disease take dietary supplements, and probiotics are particularly popular. We have previously reported that celiac patients who use dietary supplements have more symptoms than non-users, so we decided to test the probiotics for gluten contamination.”
As clarified by CUMC in the press release, it has not been established whether those trace levels of gluten could harm or produce symptoms among celiac disease patients. Dr. Benjamin Lebwohl – one of the study’s authors and a professor of medicine and epidemiology at CUMC’s Celiac Disease Center – clarified the issue further:
“We know that most patients with celiac disease only develop intestinal damage when consuming more than 10 milligrams of gluten daily, and it is unlikely that contaminated probiotics can lead to that amount unless patients are ingesting mega-doses.”
Still, the findings were concerning for Dr. Lebwohl and others:
“Why is there any gluten in these products? Why should the consumer pay any attention to gluten-free labeling on such products? And given the great consumer interest in probiotics, will regulatory bodies take action to protect the public?” added Dr. Lebwohl.
Concern for celiac patients or concern for everyone?
As I addressed in my book on the topic, a bigger question lies whether gluten levels that are considered harmful for celiac disease patients are harmful for those without celiac disease. Certainly there has been quite a bit of attention given to this topic among internet sites over the past few years. But what does the real science say?
Press release. Columbia University Medical Center. New study finds that many probiotics are contaminated with traces of gluten. May 15, 2015.
“Widespread Contamination of Probiotics with Gluten, Detected by Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry.” Samantha Nazareth.Digestive and Disease Week (DDW) in Washington DC.
More information on the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University Medical Center can be found at www.celiacdiseasecenter.columbia.edu.
Adams C. The Gluten Cure: Proven Natural Solutions to Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivities. Logical Books, 2014.