It sounds like an unfolding epidemic: A decade ago, virtually no one in the U.S. seemed to have a problem eating gluten in bread and other foods. Now, millions do.
Gluten-free products are flying off grocery shelves, and restaurants are boasting of meals with no gluten. Celebrities on TV talk shows chat about the digestive discomfort they blame on the wheat protein they now shun. Some churches even offer gluten-free Communion wafers.
Faddishness is a big part of it. Americans will spend an estimated $7 billion this year on foods labeled gluten-free, according to the market research firm Mintel. But the best estimates are that more than half the consumers buying these products – perhaps way more than half – don’t have any clear-cut reaction to gluten.
They buy gluten-free because they think it will help them lose weight, or because they seem to feel better, or because they mistakenly believe they are sensitive to gluten.[...] research confirms estimates that about 1 percent of U.S. adults have it today, making it four times more common now than it was 50 years ago, Murray and his colleagues reported Tuesday in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.
Hmm. There is much to question here.
Is this a real trend? Is it just something we have now noticed? Is it a change in the genetic makeup of the wheat we use? Our overall diet? Our overuse of antibiotics that mess up our normal gut biota? Don’t know. But there are many possibilities.
But, one thing is certain. Going gluten-free isn’t fun, easy or cheap. So, before you jump on the gluten-free bandwagon and proclaim it to everyone that gluten is “bad”, make sure this is not just another fad.
For more on gluten free diets, check out this Skeptoid episode.
Also, Science-based Medicine: Is gluten the new Candida?