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April 10, 2008

Disturbing Gluten Digest Enzyme Ad

Bad Idea

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Kim found this ad in the March issue of Vegetarian Times. You know it's not our style to rain on anyone's parade, but we were concerned that this information might mislead someone. I didn't know whether to just ignore it, or to bring it to your attention, so I ran it by Dr. Peter Green at the Columbia University Celiac Disease Center and these were his comments:

"This advertisement is misleading. There are currently no rigorously tested enzymes on the market that digest all ingested gluten. There is currently considerable expenditure on the development of enzymes that digest the usually very resistant gluten molecules. Unlike lactose that requires just enough lactase to eliminate enough lactose to let people be comfortable, gluten needs to be fully digested. The enzymes need to be tested in the test tube, on animal models, and in humans. The enzymes have to be proven safe and very effective. This drug development is very expensive. The investors in the development of these drugs will need to recoup their investments so the drugs will not be available OTC. They will be prescription drugs. In addition, the ad states that there is amylase activity. That is irrelevant because amylase is a carbohydrate with nothing to do with gluten. This ad is misleading and should be challenged."

What do you think about this?


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My thoughts on this is that even if there was something on the market today that would enable me to eat things with gluten in it, I would not take it. I have adjusted my diet and have become very comfortable and more healthy by not eating all things gluten. I have no desire to go back to what was, for any reason. If anyone had ever been in my shoes, and had experienced the embarrassment I had that was caused by eating wheat, they would probably feel the same way about as I do.

And thank you, Celiac Chicks, for bringing the good as well as the bad to the attention of the gluten free world.

I'm really bothered by this. There are already too many misconceptions about Celiac.

And I'm not sure I'd use a product that HAD been properly tested and vetted. Seems like asking for trouble, since what we're dealing with is an autoimmmune disorder, and not just an allergy.

This definitely sounds as if it should be challenged by FDA or other agencies that regulate such claims. Sounds almost as if they are claiming drug status- because many gluten intolerant folks are Celiac, which is a disease, and this could be interpreted as being recommended for them. (um, since they appear to be trying to appeal to Celiacs as well..??)
A little frightening, actually.

Hopefully, anyone who has had to be gluten free for more than a minute and a half, reads the LABEL! As with any OTC drug, promising what no one else can do, is a kin to selling snake oil. Buyer beware.
Thank you Dr. Green for spelling it out..
As always, bravo CeliacChicks!
Deb Shear

Kelly -

Thank you for find this!

This ranks up there with doctors who have been told by their patients that they grew out of celiac.

I'm going to post on my site as well to spread the word.


Here's the article from the last Westchester Celiac Sprue Support Group Newsletter:
Take A Moment To Be Certain…
Take A Moment To Be Sure...
Being an informed consumer — reading ingredient statements and product labels and calling manufacturers or checking manufacturer websites should be second nature to a person with celiac disease. It pays to be more than a little skeptical when confronted with advertising that flies in the face of what the celiac community and the scientific and medical professions recommend in terms of the gluten-free diet. The Taste For Life magazine that I picked up at a local Mrs. Green’s Natural Market did celiacs no favors by running a full page ad with the enticing headline of “Eat Wheat & Be Merry”. The NOW company offers their Gluten Digest “gastro-intestinal support” product as a way for the “estimated 20 million Americans who have difficulty digesting gluten to consider this a personal invitation to enjoy your favorite foods once again”. Do not be fooled by the gobbledy-gook and pseudo-science that follows — the “scientifically-balanced combination of amylase, protease, and glucoamylase enzymes...increases the number of digestible gluten particles by 177%” is pure and utter nonsense. Pay attention to the fine print that says that “These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”

I think this ad belongs in the snake oil file and this product belongs in the garbage can. I am disappointed that Mrs. Green’s would go along with such a dangerously misleading advertisement aimed at a significant segment of their customers.

This is an interesting ad...but not interesting in a good way. I hope everyone challenges this one, because it could mislead someone into believing that this will solve their gluten problems.

I do take gluten enzymes (Glutenzyme), but they are my emergency kit for when I've accidentally ingested gluten at a restaurant or from a food I believed was gluten free.

Sheltie Girl @ Gluten A Go Go

I have seen this ad in several magazines, and my feeling is that it's bogus. Perhaps it might be helpful for an "accident" but in any case I prefer to modify my diet rather than take medications.

Thanks for the conversation and awareness!

It's a sticky situation getting the FDA involved with non-prescription sources. It's already difficult for -legitimate- homeopathy, vitamins, and other supplements to stay on the market.

I do agree that there needs to be better labeling laws all around. We should have transparent labeling -- no hidden ingredients and no grey areas of function.

Legally they can't say it 'does' this or that and they have to have the 'warning' label on every container, "these statements. . . .", but there is too much grey area. The title alone is is grey area -- Gluten Digest -- yes digestive enzymes assist in the digestion of gluten and other food matter, but that's not the whole story. As we know.

Just as it is our responsibility to check food labels for ingredients it is ultimately the consumer's responsibility to check out supplements.

It is difficult enough in the US for people to understand that the importance of Celiac/Gluten Intolerance, the difficulties in getting diagnosed and treated and, of course, the diet -- without a product like this dismissing the severity of this auto-immune disorder.

When obesity became an epidemic and there were so many obese people desperate to lose fat, shyster companies came out of the woodwork with all their ridiculous "cures" that did not make people lose fat -- just their savings. Now, as more and more people are being diagnosed with celiac disease, more shyster companies are emerging to take advantage of desperate people who just want to eat "normally."

Eating gluten free is the new "normal." Eating the "old" way made you sick. Eating the "new" way makes you healthy! What could be simpler???

When obesity became an epidemic and there were so many obese people desperate to lose fat, shyster companies came out of the woodwork with all their ridiculous "cures" that did not make people lose fat -- just their savings. Now, as more and more people are being diagnosed with celiac disease, more shyster companies are emerging to take advantage of desperate people who just want to eat "normally."

Eating gluten free is the new "normal." Eating the "old" way made you sick. Eating the "new" way makes you healthy! What could be simpler???

Wow. my girlfriend actually got very excited and showed me that ad in her Vegetarian Times, and she couldn't understand why I wasn't buying it. I'd say 10 seconds was about all it took for me to write it off. Snake oil is right! This is dangerous stuff.

I think that it's dispicable. For some manufacturer's it's all about money not anyone's health and well-being. I've been gluten-free for 7+years and will never eat gluten again. I've done my research and am very cautious about everything that I ingest. For those that struggle eating gluten-free this leads them to false hope and illness. I think that CeliacChicks are awesome and provide information that cannot be found anywhere else.

The ad and the product are equally disturbing. We should all boycott NOW supplements immediately.

Hi Kelly,

I always like to stay open minded; however, this kind of stuff is such a scam. Here in Boulder there are several naturopaths that are telling people diagnosed with celiac that they can cure them of the disease and that they will be able to eat gluten again.

I'm not sure why people don't entirely take celiac seriously and view it as some sort of fad or new age thing.

Thanks to people like you and Dr. Green this is starting to change.


While this may be snake-oil, there is some promising research on an orally-taken enzyme that will degrade the gliadin peptides responsible for an immune response before the food ever reaches the duodenum. It may be a while, but definitely something promising to watch for.
Here's a couple of abstracts of the research:

Glad you found this and brought it to everyone's attention and had Dr.Green's input on it!I trust Dr.Green and this company needs reported to the F.D.A!

I am surprised that a reputable company like NOW is claiming to have developed an enzyme to digest wheat. To my knowledge, that is a false claim, especially for Celiac Disease. I take a supplement called GlutenDigest from ITM Wellness when I travel since I can't always control my food preparation. My doctor was clear that I should not try to eat gluten (which I don't) but in case I get an accidental exposure, it helps me avoid anaphylactic shock that has resulted in the past. In fact, I just take one capsule with each meal when I am away from home as a precaution. This is a long way for the claim that NOW makes. I find that advertising potentially dangerous and irresponsible.

This is shocking coming from Now foods. It's really disturbing that someone could think this would be a safe way to consume gluten. Thanks for spreading the word.


What's disturbing is this quote:

Caution: If you have Celiac Disease, use only under your practitioner's supervision.

Just the IDEA that a celiac can try this bothers me. They are now offering gluten-free baking mixes, but there's no way in heck I'll buy it.

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