According to Google Trends, searches for the keyword “gluten free” have nearly doubled in the last 18-months.
While the bulk of the increase is due to increasing awareness (and diagnosis) of celiac disease around the globe, it also represents a growing trend: the adoption of a gluten-free diet by people without celiac disease.
Gluten-Free Goes Mainstream
A slew of new diet books advise that anyone – including people that don’t have celiac disease – looking to shed pounds should unceremoniously cut out gluten from their diet. They claim that gluten-containing foods cause a roller coaster of blood sugar and displace more nutritious foods from the diet.
One of the frontrunners in the gluten-free diet trend is Loren Cordain, PhD of Colorado University. Cordain is credited with popularizing the Paleo Diet, a diet that has a central tenet of avoiding wheat at all costs.
But Cordain has been joined by a cacophony of diet gurus and celebrities, including “Gladiator” Russell Crowe.
The million dollar question is: should everyone be gluten-free?
There’s a quiet but growing buzz in the nutrition-science community that answers the question with a half-hearted “yes.” More and more research is suggesting that there’s a silent majority of folks that are “gluten sensitive” – meaning their immune system responds to gluten in the same way as those with celiac disease. The difference, however, is that while a celiac’s immune response is akin to an atomic bomb, someone with gluten sensitivity’s is more like a firecracker.
A paper published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology reports that gluten sensitive people are in a medical “No Man’s Land” where they have no firm diagnosis or treatment. One thing nearly every gastroenterologist can agree on is that people with overactive intestines should steer clear of gluten.
What This Means for People with Celiac Disease
The exponential growth of celiac diagnosis has brought unheard of R&D to the gluten-free table. For the first time, gluten-free foods like pizza and bread (that actually taste like pizza and bread) are available to people with celiac disease. Add in the gluten-free dieters and the gluten sensitive populations and you have a perfect storm of new customers to prod food producers to crank out better and cheaper gluten-free food options.
Importantly, if the silent majority of those with gluten sensitivity are counted, we could be taking upwards of 5% (or more) of the US population with some sort of gluten intolerance. The sheer numbers would pour millions of dollars into research funding for a celiac disease cure.
Although it’s still early, feel good that you’ll likely have more company joining you on your gluten-free journey.