Gluten free diets -- is it a fad? According to a CNBC report, 30% of Americans want to cut down or eliminate gluten in their diet (data from the NPD Group). Professional chefs now named gluten the 8th most popular trend of 2013 (National Restaurant Association survey). Gluten has found its place in the food scene along with fat, sugar, and cholesterol.
Decades ago, we hardly hear the word gluten. That may very well be due to the lack of awareness both by the consumers and the medical communities. Nowadays, an estimated 1% of American is believed to have celiac disease, according to the Center for Celiac Research & Treatment. Many more, about 6% of the population, are believed to be gluten sensitive. Due to the varied symptoms, many with the disease are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. What exactly caused this trend is unknown. Our guest panel provided a few suggestions. The changes in gut composition/health due to our new diets, the increased consumption of food containing gluten, and the move to high yielding wheat crops are all possible contributing factors.
For those suffering from celiac disease or who are gluten sensitive, avoiding gluten is a necessity. However, is the rapid increase in gluten-free demand a true health concern or is it simply a celebrity hype, or a preconception of its weight loss promise?
The weight loss promise of a gluten-free diet may be a misconception, cautioned our experts. Those who are gluten sensitive lose weight on a gluten-free diet due to the reduction in gluten-induced inflammation. Healthy individuals may not see the same results. On a similar note, many of the gluten free food in the marketplace are highly processed. So one should be careful not to trade off a perceived problem with a real health issue. The law of moderation would advise against cutting out a food group altogether unless it is necessary.
Our panel left our gluten sensitive audiences a parting thought -- Don't think about what you cannot have. Focus on the good, nutritious and yummy foods that you can in fact enjoy. Earth's bounty awaits.
A discussion on gluten and gluten-intolerance. A survival guide for those on a gluten-free diet.Listen to broadcast 07/30/13
Shauna James Ahern, Founder, GlutenFreeGirl.com
Mary Purdy, MS, Registered Dietitian, Nourishing Balance