The Waving Wheat

Avoiding Gluten Remains a Popular Pursuit

Gluten-free everything was on a hot streak in 2014. But if you thought it was the flavor of the month, sure to fade, you were wrong. New research in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings finds that more than three million Americans are avoiding gluten without a specific medical diagnosis that requires it. Ten years ago, says celiac researcher Joseph Murray, “no one avoided gluten without a celiac diagnosis.”

Google Trends data, which tracks internet search volume over time, suggests interest peaked in 2014. But it hasn’t really declined since then. Likewise, food industry analysts report that gluten-free brands are still enjoying strong growth. Rebecca Silliman, head of communications for the Instacart grocery delivery venture says her firm sees persistent demand:

We predict that the gluten-free craze is here to stay – at least for a while. Since gluten-free ingredients like almond and flaxseed flour are readily available now and mixes make baking easy, we predict we’ll see even more people branching out from pre-made gluten-free items in 2017 and instead making their own treats.

A growing number of people are finding that they cannot tolerate gluten, even though they do not have celiac disease. Celiac researcher Benjamin Lebwohl of Columbia University says that the science is playing catch up:

An increasing number of people say that gluten makes them sick, and we don’t have a good sense why that is yet. There is a large placebo effect – but this is over and above that. The science is in its infancy still. We need to take these patients seriously in order to nail down their problems.

Click here for the study in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, here for more from the Washington Post, and here for an overview of gluten and wheat sensitivities.

The Waving Wheat, photograph © Carol Von Canon / flickr

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January 17, 2017