The other day I found myself in a “healthy argument” with a friend who made some radical changes to his diet a few months ago. I won’t get into all of the food changes that were made, but one was that he began a gluten free diet. When asked why, he was unable to give me a response, other than a look of “duh, it’s healthy, right!?
One of the current trends in the food industry right now is “Gluten Free” food items. In 2003 there were only 135 products introduced to the market, where in 2008 there were 832! What is the rise in this trend? Meeting the needs of health savvy consumers, or is it another fad that we are being pulled into?
Gluten-free products are necessary when someone has an intolerance to gluten, known as Celiac disease. Gluten is an amino acid sequence (protein) found in wheat, barley, and rye. When someone has celiac disease their body can not digest these proteins. When gluten is consumed, it damages the small intestine, interfering with absorption of nutrients. About 1% of the population actually has this disease. Researchers also believe that people who do not have celiac disease may still have a gluten intolerance leading to a wide range of symptoms from bloating to rashes. This gluten sensitivity may effect as much as 15-30% of the population.
Celiac disease is an immune disorder, that shares the common genetic susceptibility as Type 1 diabetes. Unlike the general population, research has shown as much as 16% of people with diabetes also have celiac disease. In a nutshell, people with type 1 diabetes have a much higher incident of having celiac disease. Although it is still up to your doctor to screen for celiac disease if you have type 1 diabetes, you may consider checking if this has been screened. It can also develop over time, so you may want routine screening.
There is some research in the field that gluten free diets can help with autism, multiple sclerosis, and migraines, however there is still minimal evidence so these individuals should still seek proper medical treatment Any individual can consume a gluten-free diet, yet the downside is it can be expensive.
For those with actual intolerances/sensitivities to gluten it is critical to only consume products that are gluten free to avoid health consequences. For others, there may be benefits for other health conditions. For a woman with diabetes and no gluten intolerance, you have no added advantage.
Yes, many are jumping on the expensive gluten free bandwagon.