While the gluten-free diet trend has certainly taken off, the number of people who actually suffer from Celiac (an autoimmune disease characterized by an intolerance to gluten) remains relatively stable.

According to new data, the number of people who follow a gluten-free diet is 3x higher than the amount of those who have celiac disease. Researchers found that between 2009 and 2014, the number of celiac sufferers did not increase, yet the number of those following a gluten-free diet increased steadily, even exponentially.

Research shows that 1.76 million people in the United States have celiac disease, while 2.7 million people follow the diet. [1]

Some researchers theorize that the rise in gluten-free food consumption could also result in a plateau of celiac sufferers.

The study involved data from National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys between the years of 2009 and 2014. Involved were 22,278 adults and children over the age of 6. Each were tested for celiac disease and were interviewed about medical history and previous diagnoses.

Dr. Daphne Miller, an associate clinical professor of family and community medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, stated of the survey results:

“Part of what may be driving [a] gluten-free diet trend is simply a belief, fueled by marketing and media, that these foods are healthier.”

The gluten-free diet is also more accessible as the trend grows, thanks to a drop in prices in gluten-free foods and gluten-free sections at the supermarkets.

What’s more, the research showed that the diet was most popular amongst one specific set of demographics: young adults ages 20-39, non-Hispanic whites and females.

Many people who give up gluten, despite not receiving a positive test for celiac disease, claim that consuming it makes them have a sore stomach or, at times, diarrhea. Some dub this as “gluten sensitive,” meaning they don’t meet the qualifications for a diagnosis, but still see a benefit from cutting it out of their diets. Some doctors believe that this elimination of gluten means an exclusion of grains, which is what actually helps those people who are dubbed “gluten-sensitive” instead of the avoidance of gluten.

Authors of the study have said that there is no substantiated evidence to prove that a gluten-free diet is truly the solution for many people choosing to adopt the diet. [2]

Sources:

[1] EurekAlert

[2] Medical Daily


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Post written byAnna Scanlon:
Anna Scanlon is an author of YA and historical fiction and a PhD student at the University of Leicester where she is finishing her degree in modern history.