Products

Disturbing Gluten Digest Enzyme Ad

38 Comments 10 April 2008

Bad Idea

Click here to view a large print version of this.

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."

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38 Comments so far

  1. 1
     
    Karen says:

    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.

  2. 2
     
    terry says:

    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.

    •  

      The NOW ad seems to be accurate. Their bottle label states “Helps Digest,” so it does not say that it does it all, but that it helps the body. Seems pretty straightforward and accurate.

      It says that amylase “helps support the body’s ability to digest gluten.” So the amylase works on the carbohydrate/grain issues that accompany the gluten molecule, and the DPP IV works on the protein/gluten components. A broad-spectrum digestive approach. Again, not an inaccurate statement.

      The only genuine cures of any ailments come from the body curing itself. And the body never uses drugs to cure, but instead uses the components of the natural world–plants that contain nutriments, minerals, etc.

      Gluten from hybridized wheat (99% of what you can find) and other grains cause low level inflammation, even in people without celiac and this alters brain chemistry.

      Having enzymes available on the market to help people who want that help, (and people who don’t want it, don’t have to buy it) is a good thing because it’s better than nothing.

      By the way, there is a pathway for the body to cure celiac. All that’s required is that the body place a methyl molecule (CH3) on the chromosomes that are expressing hyper reactions to gluten peptides, and this will shut off that over-exuberant reactiveness. Knowing that there is a pathway is the beginning of ways to find solutions.

      The hidden blessing in gluten intolerance is that people return to a more wholesome diet of protein and vegetables and fats, and thus have lower levels of inflammation that drives all chronic degenerative diseases. Best wishes, y’all.

  3. 3
     
    Jane says:

    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.

  4. 4
     
    Deborah Shear says:

    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

  5. 5
     
    Rob Deichert says:

    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.

    Rob

  6. 6
     
    Chris Spreitzer says:

    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.

  7. 7
     
    Sheltie Girl says:

    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

  8. 8
     
    Vittoria says:

    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.

  9. 9
     
    Nicole says:

    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.

  10. 10
     
    Jeannie says:

    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???

  11. 11
     
    Jeannie says:

    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???

  12. 12
     
    Justin G. says:

    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.

  13. 13
     
    Paula says:

    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.

  14. 14
     
    Aggie says:

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

  15. 15
     
    Elana says:

    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.

    Elana

  16. 16
     
    Greg says:

    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:
    http://ajpgi.physiology.org/cgi/content/abstract/291/4/G621
    http://gut.bmj.com/cgi/content/abstract/57/1/25?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&author1=Mitea+&andorexactfulltext=and&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&sortspec=relevance&resourcetype=HWCIT

  17. 17
     
    Jan says:

    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!

  18. 18
     
    Ann Clark says:

    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.

  19. 19
     
    Catherine says:

    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.

    –Catherine

  20. 20
     
    Jenn says:

    http://www.nowfoods.com/?action=itemdetail&item_id=101094

    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.

  21. 21
     
    CeliacChick says:

    Everybody- Thank you for all of your comments! Also, thank you for the affirmation that I did the right thing and brought this to your attention.

    Elana- I had one of those naturopath experiences years ago in Portland, Oregon before I knew any better. I was a naive 23 year old that wanted to believe, like most people, that it could just go away. It was a lot of money in “sessions” being hooked up to some monitor …I have no idea really what the heck the guy was doing. At the end of the sessions he told me to go ahead and eat wheat…of course I went crazy!! It took longer for my DH to appear, but OMG when it did full force after about a month. Boy, did I feel not only sick, but like a big sucker! I would just think that fast forwarding ten years it would be harder to fool people with that stuff, but I guess not.

  22. 22
     
    ChelB says:

    This looks scary! When I first saw it I also thought it was fake too! Whatever this stuff is…I don’t want anything to do with it! : ( I am very wary of pills, supplements, and powders based on some bad past experiences. I agree with you 100% Sheltie Girl..diet modification works just fine for me too!

  23. 23
     
    JohnnyB says:

    Well, I’m newly diagnosed (less than 2 months gluten free and feeling much better, thank you!) and I thought that I’d try one of these enzyme products. I intended to use it where I suspected cross-contamination, but I wanted some assurances that it actually worked. So I put it to the test. After all, what did I have to lose?..I’m only just starting the GF journey. I won’t go into the messy details…let’s just say that it didn’t mitigate the tablespoon or so of soy sauce that I used instead of Tamari. It may be a good way to combat trace gluten, but it’s not enough to take on a full frontal assault. Be VERY careful trusting these things. I shudder to think of asymptomatic people taking this stuff while slowly killing themselves.

  24. 24
     
    Carla says:

    I bought some at a health food store a week ago. The owner presented it as strictly a precautionary measure. He was very passionate about celiac as his daughter has the disease. She was present when he told me about it. We talked for quite a while about her journey which has become his family’s journey. I do think the ad is misleading but as careful as I am, I have experienced the accidental ingestion and am willing to try anything not to experience the effects again. I am disheartened by JohnnyB’s post but I am hopeful that a combination of careful monitoring and Gluten Digest will ease the occasional effects of accidental ingestion.

  25. 25
     
    skinheadwilli says:

    Now’s Gluten Digest may not work for someone with Celiac disease (which, according to my gastroenterologist, I do not have), but for myself, it has been a blessing. Now I can eat wheat and barley products without breaking out in an itchy rash across my torso and finger joints.
    I don’t have to be that “special” dinner guest who is constantly imposing their dietary restrictions on their hostess or the chef at the restaurant.

  26. 26
     
    Patty says:

    I’ve tried it, it works!!! I mean it really works for me. I have had no symptoms. I am concerned about whether I am causing damage without knowing it though. I am going to ask my dr for bloodwork to see if anything shows up. I’ll keep you posted.

  27. 27
     
    Kristine says:

    I also am newly diagnosed (about 2 months now)and am also a Type 1 diabetic so, as you can imagine, eating properly is quite a challange. But I found this article very interesting given that my husband just called me to let me know that he went to a health food store near his office to surprise me with a box of gluten-free cerial (sweet) and he mentioned this product to me. We had seen something similar elsewhere and had considered it for “emergencys”, but I was unsure of whether to try it or not. What are your suggestions for such an enzyme for emergency purposes only? Recently I was at the South Side Seaport in NYC and inquired about a particular food before ordering, but was not quite sure after tasting it if I had gotten a straight answer. I was wishing I had had something with me then. Turned out I was not effected but sometimes I worry so that I almost make myself sick. Anyway, thank you for the input. I can really use all that I can get. Also thank you CeliacChicks for bringing this to our attention and for having a great site to visit!

  28. 28
     
    jmac7 says:

    I appreciate everyone’s comments that I’ve read so far. Asserting that a gluten sensitive person can eat gluten with the assistance of enzymes and be perfectly healthy is absurd. If even one particle of gluten is not digested, it can trigger an autoimmune response in the gut and elsewhere in the body. So testing on humans is absolutely necessary to know if these enzymes do that or not. However, I want to make the point that if you read the Now ad carefully, they are not claiming that at all. They are only claiming to increase the breakdown of gluten, and they “invite” people to try it. In fact, this is not their enzyme, it belongs to the National Enzyme Company. They are an enzyme company that’s been around for a long time and sell to many different brand names. They were started by Edward Howell, MD, the man that really brought enzyme therapy to the US and advocated for every human who eats a standard American diet to consume enzymes. His research showed him that unless your food was 100% raw, and avoided nuts and seeds, then you will suffer from the adverse affects of enzyme depletion, and that is where supplemental enzymes can help. I believe that Now and NEC are only trying to help those people that want their product. Believe me, there are plenty of people that could care less about long-term effects of gluten sensitivity and will use these enzymes to consume gluten even if they are sensitive to it. And as long as they understand they are poisoning themselves, like any alcohol drinker does, then why make them feel bad for having it? At least it will slow down the progression of their disease. I would love everyone to do the best for themselves and their bodies, and avoid all wheat, gluten, corn, etc. if they are sensitive to it. But for those who won’t, this is a great alternative. Love to you all.

  29. 29
     
    james says:

    IF YOU THINK THAT THE FDA GIVES A DAMN ABOUT YOU OR DOES ANY BETTER TESTING THEN YOU ARE WRONG. DON’T BE FOOLS. RESEARCH FLIPPER BABIES(Thalidomide). AND MEDICAL TESTING OF PHARMACEUTICALS HAS ACTUALLY BECOME MORE LAX SINCE THE 60s. THEY HAVE FAST TRACKED MEDICATIONS. DON’T YOU READ THE PAPER OR WATCH TV. WHY ALL THE LAWSUITS? IF YOU HAVE A BRAIN IN YOUR HEAD YOU WILL WEIGH ALL OPTIONS AND BE SKEPTICAL OF EVERYONE. THE MEDICAL COMMUNITY IS JUST ANOTHER MONEY MAKING BUSINESS. THEY WILL SELL YOU A SURGERY JUST LIKE A SNAKE OIL SALESMAN. RESEARCH THE INSTANCES OF ELECTROSHOCK HAVING A POSITIVE SIDE EFFECT. THERE ARE NONE THAT THE SAME PEOPLE DO NOT REPORT PERMANENT DEBILITATING EFFECTS. THIS IS STILL “SOLD” TODAY. WHY HAS IT BEEN PROVEN THAT THE MAJORITY(80-90 PERCENT) STILL EXPERIENCE DEPRESSION(UNLESS YOU RESEARCH ON WEBSITES THAT ONLY SUPPORT THEM/SELL THEM/OR SUPPORT THEIR SALES). AND THE MAJORITY OF THE REST ARE JUST TOO ZOOED OUT OF THEIR SKULLS TO KNOW. VERY FEW HAVE POSITIVE REACTIONS AND THE SCIENCE BEHIND IT ALL ADMITS IT IS JUST GUESSWORK. THEY DO NOT KNOW HOW THEY ACTUALLY WORK, OTHER THAN TO UNBALANCE NEUROCHEMICALS (THROUGH POISONING). IT IS ALL A GAMBLE. BUT YOU CAN BE SMART ENOUGH TO TRUST YOURSELF AND RESULTS. TO RESEARCH AND BE AWARE OF THINGS AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. OPEN YOUR EYES AND BE AWARE OF THINGS. DO NOT TAKE ANYTHING THAT ANYONE SAYS AS CUT INTO STONE. IT IS WHAT YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN TAUGHT AS A CHILD. IF YOU ASK ME, AND YOU WERE AWARE OF WHAT THE WORLD CONSISTS OF, IT IS ALL SCARY.

    •  
      deb says:

      Right on, James!

      And I’d like to know why individuals who have not personally tried this product are trashing it to the point of calling it “dangerous”, without any actual knowledge of the product.

      Turn the company over to the FDA? Like that would be in anyone’s best interest.

      I intend to try this product for the inevitable, accidental exposure to gluten, and if it helps me or anyone else with this problem, then it’s a good thing.

  30. 30
     
    james says:

    IN THAT LAST POST I WAS TALKING ABOUT ANTIDEPRESSANTS AFTER ELCTROCHOCK BUT THE SYSTEM DROPPED PART OF MY TEXT.

  31. 31
     
    Ding says:

    I’m pretty disappointed that you piss all over this product. Read the ad, it says “20 million Americans”. The incidence of celiac is not 1 in 15. Most of you don’t know that gluten and casein (milk protein, acting similarly to gluten) actually affects everyone. The opioid peptides are created from partial digestion of these proteins and enter circulation. Whether their effect is bad or strong enough depends on the persons endorphin levels, natural DPP4 levels in the gut and mental features/consciousness. For those bothered by the slowdown or whacked-out feeling they get after eating these, without an autoimmune or inflammatory reaction anywhere, this product can help. That is what they mean when they say sensitive.

    I’m glad I’ve found DPP4, and from another brand too. My personal issue is casein… milk ingredients (almost always meaning casein is present, since it is addicting just like gluten) are hidden in as much food as gluten is, and this enzyme along with lactase lets me run a normal social life. Nowhere in the ad do they say this is a cure or total management for celiac, and just like another poster said, it says take with a doctors advice if you’ve celiac, since the doctor should be well able to explain to you that it won’t fix anything but may help.

    “There are currently no rigorously tested enzymes on the market that digest all ingested gluten.”

    Duh, the amount digested will only decrease exponentially but never hit zero. Even if you’re eating gluten free, there is probably one molecule of it in each meal you eat unless it was grown in a test tube.

    “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.”

    Well obviously these drugs are on the market and they’re all OTC. Apart from nanotechnology which you may consider enzymatic therapy approaching or being, this is about the closest you can get to eliminating all the gluten. Even some kind of sequestering particles will capture it at the same slowly decreasing rate as an enzyme will digest it.

    “In addition, the ad states that there is amylase activity. That is irrelevant because amylase is a carbohydrate with nothing to do with gluten.”

    But has to do with general digestion and gut health. Celiac damages the gut and inhibits proper digestion of everything. Adding extra enzymes as almost all DPP enzymes have is beneficial and just makes sense. More glucose will help power the lining to heal faster in general, appropriately matched with better protein digestion and absorption due to the non-peptidase proteases present in these products.

    Why all the negativity? There’s obviously something against these products. They’re never marketed as a cure to celiac and it is explained well. The ad is not disturbing at all.

  32. 32
     
    stuart says:

    The biggest scam of all is wheat. Wheat is everywhere because it is so cheap and makes cheap food seem thick and “rich”. Americans digestive tracks are simply overwhelmed by the volume of gluten causing malnutrition due to the mucoid plaque build-up in the intestines. Gluten is the #1 health problem causing dozens of other health problems.

  33. 33
     
    Issam Sharaf says:

    Hi. I have been on Dapson for over 30 years, the doctor who diagnosed my Dermatitis Herpetiformis recommended living on just bananas (gluten free)! when you hear there is something that help (not cure) as NOW has said, you think it is worth giving it a try, after all, they’re only enzymes (harmless in small qty.). When you’re drowning you hang to a straw, as they say. Think of asprin as a killer! how many die of this drug in USA alone? why not stopping it, and take white willow instead!! The problem is that we always want something fast no matter what it is! right? did anybody died from taking a herb?? These enzymes from NOW are worth a try, I think. This is not an advocate for NOW I’m just an ordinary patient who suffered with DH. Thanks.

  34. 34
     
    KT says:

    My Celiac tests all came back negative but I have been intolerant to gluten since childhood and was diagnosed with malabsorption which was remedied by 10 years GF. I went to an herbalist who recommended enzymes (not this exact one, but very similar). After taking it for about a month I was able to slowly reintroduce gluten into my diet. I can’t say this would work for a “true” Celiac, but it definitely helped me a lot. I don’t eat a whole lot of gluten just because I’m so used to not eating it, but I can now eat gluten socially which is nice!

  35. 35
     
    Summer says:

    KT, I agree. I think it may depend on the level of intolerance.

    My husband discovered at 60 that he was gluten-intolerant – gluten gives him migraine-like headaches. So he went gluten-free for about 3 years, as did our whole family so as to help him by not having it around.

    Then he discovered these enzymes by NOW and tried them out very cautiously and found they worked – for him. And I think that’s because he doesn’t have Celiac – just a mild intolerance.

    So now he has something he can use for accidental ingestion or like KT said “socially” when eating gluten-free would mean not eating at all.

    But I do want to point out that it’s not like we need to boycott NOW Foods, because they DO work for some people. I just think they should be used judiciously.

  36. 36
     
    Cindy says:

    the negativity towards this product comes from the intense social pressure to just “take a pill” and “make the problem go-away”. I’m researching this product because a friend insists it will “cure” my Celiac/DH (don’t buy it, but I can’t answer convincingly without knowing something about the product).

    It sounds like it might be helpful for non-celiac gluten problems, and I do have to wonder if it might help for those inevitable circumstances where cross contamination risk is high….


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Thanks for stopping by! I'm Kelly Courson and this is where I've shared my gluten-free finds since 2003. The world has been my gluten-free oyster for 14 years now and I love sharing what I've learned in order to help others adapt to a gluten-free diet. Have a look around and feel free to leave a comment. Connecting with people like you is what has kept me going this long! Seriously.
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