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Questions Arise About Gluten in Cosmetics

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Celiac Disease related image Photo: Getty Images

Recent news from the American College of Gastroenterology’s annual meeting attests to just how hard it is to manage celiac disease. Would you believe there’s a possibility that certain cosmetics can accidentally expose you to gluten, especially if the cosmetics are for your lips or face?

Celiac patients go to great lengths to avoid gluten by sticking to a diet of gluten-free products which, fortunately, are becoming increasingly available in grocery stores. But now their attention might need to go to cosmetics as well.

A study called “Information About Cosmetic Ingredients is Difficult to Obtain: A Potential Hazard for Celiac Patients” was presented at the ACG’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C., in late October 2011. In the study, researchers from George Washington University focused on the top 10 cosmetic companies in the United States, evaluating whether the companies made it easy or difficult to get information about ingredients in their cosmetics and whether they offered any gluten-free cosmetics.

One of the researchers, Dr. Marie L. Borum, said the study was prompted in part by a patient of hers, a 28-year-old woman who used a body lotion advertised as “natural” and then experienced a worsening of her celiac symptoms, including gastrointestinal problems and a recurring skin rash.

“It was difficult to determine whether gluten was contained in the product she was using,” said fellow researcher Dr. Pia Prakash in an ACG news release. “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.”

After identifying the top 10 cosmetic companies, Borum and Prakash visited their official websites, searching for “gluten” and “gluten-free.” They consulted independent websites as well.

Only two cosmetic company websites offered detailed ingredient information, the study noted, and gluten sources were not identified. Independent websites offered a bit more information about ingredients, but again, nothing about gluten.

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