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Gluten in Cosmetics Threaten Those With Celiac Disease

TUESDAY, Nov. 1 (HealthDay News) -- People with celiac disease may unknowingly be exposed to gluten in lip, facial or body products, a new study suggests.

Gluten -- a protein found in wheat, rye and barley -- damages the intestines of people with celiac disease.

George Washington University researchers looked at products from the top 10 cosmetic companies in the United States and found a lack of information about ingredients in the products. Only two of the companies offered detailed ingredient information, and none of the companies offered gluten-free products, the researchers found.

The study findings were slated for release Monday at the annual scientific meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology in Washington, D.C.

"The findings are alarming because gluten-containing cosmetics can be inadvertently obtained by the consumer and use of these products can result in an exacerbation of celiac disease," researcher Dr. Pia Prakash said in a college news release. "This study revealed that information about the ingredients, including the potential gluten content, in cosmetics is not readily available."

Some smaller cosmetic companies specifically advertise gluten-free alternatives, said Prakash, who added that larger companies should inform consumers "whether their products can be safely used by individuals with gluten sensitivity."

The study was prompted in part by the case of a 28-year-old woman with celiac disease who experienced a worsening of symptoms, including gastrointestinal complications and a skin rash, after using a body lotion marketed as "natural."

"It was difficult to determine whether gluten was contained in the product she was using," Prakash said. "But once she stopped using the body lotion her symptoms resolved. This case highlights the fact that celiac patients face a huge challenge in trying to determine whether cosmetic products contain gluten -- and a risk of unknowingly exposing themselves to gluten."

Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about celiac disease.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American College of Gastroenterology, news release, Oct. 28, 2011

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