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Did a Misguided Gluten-free Diet Kill Belgian Infant?

Two Belgian parents face charges that an alternative gluten-free diet caused their son to die of malnutrition.

Two parents in face charges that their son died because they fed him an alternative gluten-free diet. Photo: CC--Dr Les (Leszek - Leslie) Sachs 05/22/2017 - After their seven-month-old baby died weighing less than 10 pounds, a mother and father in Beveren, Belgium, are standing trial on charges that they starved the child by negligently providing an alternative gluten-free diet, with no medical supervision.

The couple, who ran a natural food store, put their son Lucas on an alternative gluten-free, lactose-free diet, which included quinoa milk, despite doctors describing it as unsuitable for developing infants.

According to child gastroenterologist Elisabeth De Greef, from the University Hospital of Brussels, feeding quinoa milk and other such foods to infants is absolutely wrong. She says that "These kinds of milk, which you can buy in a supermarket, do not contain the necessary proteins, minerals and vitamins. They are not adjusted to infants and thus unsuitable."

Lucas' mother said in a statement that "Lucas had an eating disorder. He got cramps when he was fed with a bottle and his parents tried out alternatives. Oat milk, rice milk, buckwheat milk, semolina milk, quinoa milk." These are all products the couple sold at their store.

At the beginning of the trial, public prosecutors blamed the couple for their son's death. Prosecutors claim that the couple made their "own diagnosis that their child was gluten intolerant and had a lactose allergy," without any input from doctors. In fact, prosecutors allege that the couple kept the child away from doctors altogether. "Not a single doctor had a dossier about Lucas and child protection services did not know about them," said the public prosecutor.

The infant's diet, said prosecutors, "led to him being less than half the expected weight for a boy his age," at the time of his death in June 6, 2014. An autopsy showed that Lucas' stomach was totally empty at the time of his death. Prosecutors say the parents did not seek medical attention, even when Lucas was gasping for air in the days before he died.

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When Lucas was in the final throes of starvation, and the parents finally did take action, prosecutors say that they compounded the child's medical crisis by driving to a homeopathic doctor on the other side of the country, instead of going to the nearest hospital.

In their defense, Lucas's father, claimed the couple never took Lucas to a doctor "because we never noticed anything unusual." In fact, the parents believed Lucas had an eating problem, says the couple's lawyer.

Under questioning, Lucas' tearful mother said that the couple never "wished for the death of our son." She also stated that Lucas [s]ometimes…gained a little weight, sometimes he lost a little."

Yet according the public prosecutor the actions by the couple amount to "intentionally denying food" to the boy. For now, the trial in this tragic case continues, with a verdict set for June 14.


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7 Responses:

Amy Mitchell
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said this on
30 May 2017 10:01:34 AM PST
What killed the baby was lack of nutrients, not a GFD. Babies should have breast milk, unless a doctor says otherwise. Foolish parents killed the baby.

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said this on
30 May 2017 11:25:19 AM PST
Let's be very clear: this tragedy has nothing to do with a gluten-free diet. Two mentally disturbed individuals starved a child to death based on crackpot theories of nutrition and outright ignorance of normal infant development. Combine that with a distrust of conventional medicine and the child was doomed. The mother's statement says it all: "Lucas had an eating disorder" - infants don't get eating disorders. He may have had colic, or just plain old gas, both of which are common for infants. Instead of seeking advice from a doctor, nurse, or even an experienced mother, they ignored his nutritional needs and starved him with ignorance. I hope they serve serious prison time for his suffering and death. And I wish the media (this site included) would stop referring to the issue in this case as being a "Gluten-free Diet" - it was a nutrition-free diet that killed the child.

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said this on
31 May 2017 7:13:21 AM PST
Excellently stated Casey. There is no "gluten milk" to which you need a Gluten Free Milk alternative!!! They are a necessary diet for those of us who cannot eat wheat/gluten when this story is about alternative MILKS that two negligent parents fed their infant instead of the proper nutrition he needed. This is not about gluten free. It's misleading and inappropriate for the focus of the story. It's these kinds of horrible stories that makes people think that my required GFD is a "fad" or a "lifestyle choice" instead of what I must do to avoid getting desperately ill and destroying my intestines. God rest the soul of that sweet little boy. He tragically suffered starvation, malnutrition and neglect for so long. It's sickening. Gluten Free had nothing to do with it.

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said this on
30 May 2017 7:30:16 PM PST
Breast milk is gluten-free, formulas are gluten-free, and yet even this site asks the question if gluten-free diet could have killed this boy? And semolina usually refers to wheat, so how sure are you his diet was even gluten-free? It was nutrient deficient vegan diet and his parents ignorance that killed him.

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said this on
31 May 2017 2:57:03 AM PST
Hell has a special place for people like this - people who would deliberately starve a child to death.

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said this on
31 May 2017 3:36:22 AM PST
Casey and Amy M said all I had to say and more.

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said this on
04 Jun 2017 12:47:01 PM PST
Maybe not a gluten free diet did it per se, but certainly it cant be denied the whole gluten free hysterical fad promulgated by supermarkets stocking shelf after shelf of "gluten free" products , including milk, and juice, that a very tiny percentage of people need, IS a large part of the lack of nutrition problem...

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