Rita Jiang

“By speaking with patients, I heard their stories and concerns, which motivates me to devote myself entirely to research to address these issues.”

The use of a gluten-free food guide to assist children with celiac disease consume healthier gluten-free diets

Celiac disease (CD) is a common autoimmune disease in which an individual develops an autoimmune reaction to gluten in the diet. The only known cure for this disease is a gluten-free diet (GFD).

However, gluten-free processed food has several potential nutritional concerns—such as low folate (vitamin B) and high sugar and fat content—that increase the risk of developing nutritional deficiencies in children. Most families with children with CD understand the need for their child to eat a GFD for life, but helping their child transition to the new diet is difficult. Due to the lack of available nutrition educational materials regarding gluten-free foods' nutritional content, children have poor diet quality.

Therefore, our team recently developed a Canadian Gluten-Free Food Guide for Children with Celiac Disease to address this gap. This educational resource consists of various tools (printed and online) that address concepts related to nutritional concerns of the GFD. For example, there are tips for label reading, grocery shopping and food preparation to help Canadian children with CD eat a nutritious GFD.

The purpose of this study is to evaluate how the implementation of the gluten-free food guide in newly diagnosed children over six months impacts important health outcomes in the children (adherence to the diet, diet quality, growth and health-related quality of life) with CD by comparing this with the effectiveness of current standard of care to diet education in children with CD in the pediatric clinics at Alberta Health Services. We hypothesize that implementing a gluten-free food guide will result in improvements in diet quality, adherence to the GFD and health-related quality of life in children with CD in Alberta.

Rita Jiang was supervised by Diana Mager and her summer studentship was funded by the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation. She is enrolled in the Bachelor of Science with Honors in Nutrition program.