Gluten free diets may be unnecessary for many, suggest researchers

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Gluten free diets may be unnecessary for many, suggest researchers

Related tags Gluten-free diet Wheat Coeliac disease

Nonceliac gluten sensitivity has become an increasingly prevalent diagnosis in the United States, but many Americans may needlessly be limiting their diets as there is no accepted definition of the condition, according to a commentary published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The popularity of gluten free diets has soared in recent years, but not just for celiacs, who must avoid gluten to manage their symptoms. Market research organization Packaged Facts has found that the market for gluten free products has grown faster than expected, and valued the market at  $2.64bn in 2010 – a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 30% from 2006 to 2010.  

Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder triggered by gluten – the protein in wheat, barley, rye and spelt – is estimated to affect about one in every 133 Americans. The only treatment currently available is complete gluten avoidance. But there is a growing number of Americans with intestinal and abdominal symptoms that may be eased or disappear when gluten is eliminated from the diet.

The authors of this latest commentary, Dr. Antonio Di Sabatino and Dr. Gino Roberto Corazza of Italy’s University of Pavia, question a widely cited figure claiming that as many as 17m Americans could be gluten-sensitive. They say that there is no official data on the prevalence of nonceliac gluten sensitivity and little consensus among medical professionals about how it should be diagnosed.

They urge open or single-blind challenge tests to determine nonceliac gluten sensitivity, after celiac disease has been ruled out, in order to avoid misdiagnosis and unnecessary dietary restrictions.

“Nonceliac gluten sensitivity should be the subject of more in-depth clinical research, and “sense” should prevail over “sensibility” to prevent a gluten preoccupation from evolving into the conviction that gluten is toxic for most of the population,”​they wrote.

“We must prevent a possible health problem from becoming a social health problem. Self-prescription of gluten withdrawal by a growing number of patients inevitably leads to a series of problems: subsequent inability to correctly diagnose or exclude celiac disease, deleterious health effects from the probably suboptimal adherence to a gluten-free diet in the case of patients with undiscovered celiac disease, and the high economic burden related to an unjustified gluten-free diet.”

Meanwhile, Packaged Facts predicts that the market for gluten free foods will continue to grow over the next several years, albeit at a slower rate, and now projects the US market for gluten free foods and beverages to approach $5.5bn by 2015.


Source:Annals of Internal Medicine

Vol. 156, No. 4, pp. 309-312

“Nonceliac Gluten Sensitivity: Sense or Sensibility?”

Authors: Antonio Di Sabatino and Gino Roberto Corazza

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wheat growers getting nervous

Posted by patty,

I feel the wheat growers are nervous that if too many people go on a gluten free diet it will eat into their profit. Not gonna happen so I wish they would just shut up.

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allergic to wheat

Posted by M.L.,

I am allergic to wheat. I get severe eczema, bloating, and stomach cramps when I have something in it. I use gluten free products because that is the only way I know for sure there's no wheat in it. Since there's a lot more gluten free products out there, I am able too enjoy stuff like pizza, and cookies etc especially when I use the gluten free mixes.

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Posted by Denise Miller,

No one in my family had enough villa damage to qualify as having Celiac Disease, so all our medical professionals told us to continue eating gluten. Thank God for Dr. Kenneth Fine's gluten sensitivity stool test and the brilliant work of Dr. Rodney Ford in his book, Gluten Syndrome. Even though it is challenging at times, we LOVE eating g/f and have NO desire to ever eat gluten again. We can choose what we put in our mouths and we can't understand why others (especially doctors) want us to eat gluten even though we know it does not suit our bodies and brains. Just because too many doctors and other medical professionals aren't familiar with Gluten Syndrome, doesn't mean it isn't real. Aldous Huxley's quote "Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored" comes to mind. Our gluten free diet doesn't cost any more that other "healthy" diets because we focus on foods that are naturally g/f: fruits, vegetables, lean meats, eggs, nuts, etc. Many naysayers also say that following a g/f diet is "difficult" and "just a trend" but we say that constantly going to doctor appointments, getting hospitalized, taking prescriptions, having procedures, and "being sick" is MUCH more difficult and costly for us. If knowing WHY you are sick and then removing that from your life is "trendy", then so be it! Proactive prevention is the key to optimal health and well being!

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