Have you noticed the proliferation of “gluten-free” stickers and labels on food products at your local supermarket lately? Whether you eat gluten-free or not, my guess is that you have noticed. Frankly, it would be hard to miss the huge impact that gluten-free foods have had on the supermarket shelves in the last year or so especially.
Why so many gluten-free foods?
It’s not your imagination. Gluten-free foods are everywhere now, not just at “health food” stores. Even convenience stores, gas stations and vending machines carry gluten-free products. In fact, sales of gluten-free foods topped $4 billion in sales in 2012, according to one survey. The truth is, most of the people who are purchasing gluten-free foods do not need them for medical reasons.
It’s estimated that only 1% of the US population has celiac disease, or about 1 in 141 Americans. Celiac disease is an autoimmune digestive disease that damages the intestines when a protein called gluten (from wheat, rye and barley) is consumed. Celiac disease interferes with digestion and nutrient absorption, and can cause a wide range of symptoms (many of them painful).
According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, 95% of people who actually have celiac disease are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with other ailments. This is especially problematic because untreated celiac disease can lead to other serious health problems. So, while people with celiac disease and related disorders, such as non-celiac gluten sensitivity, need to avoid gluten when they shop for food, other people do not need to go out of their way to purchase gluten-free foods. And yet, many of them do—in fact, one survey found that 18% of the US population purchases foods labeled “gluten-free.”
Gluten-free eating is a clearly complex issue. Should you stop eating gluten? How do you know if a good is truly-gluten free? Is the rising trend of gluten-free going to last? What impact is gluten awareness have on healthy eating as a whole? Please join us to explore some of these issues in more depth at our free webinar on May 14, 2013 2 PM ET.