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Is the gluten-free diet a fad or here to stay?

I can’t believe it has been three years since I posted an article called Is gluten-free a fad? Since then, more and more people have started eating gluten-free and it seems that the gluten-free world has just exploded wide open (finally!) And, just like three years ago, the gluten-free diet has been termed a fad diet in news articles, on blogs and in comments like this one posted on my site just a few days ago:

Of course this is a fad! …  If wheat or barley were unhealthy to the general population, I’m fairly certain we would’ve come to that conclusion over the last 6,000 years of cultivation. I guess we should all “make the choice” to not eat other things, like fruit (MANY food allergies related to fruit proteins) or any type of nut (nut allergies are much more common than celiac) or breathe the air which contains pollen (by far most common allergy) Come on people, think about this before you write ridiculous things, or decide not to eat an important group of foods. There is no doubt in my mind of “fad” status. Just like anti-sugar, pro-agave, or anti-gelatin, pro-pectin, whatever it may be. Most people ARE NOT SMART ENOUGH to think about these things, and come to their own sound conclusions, so PLEASE stop spreading the inane “hype” which only inflames the ignorance. IF YOU ARE DETERMINED TO BE GLUTEN INTOLERANT, DON’T EAT GLUTEN. IF NOT, FEEL FREE. Simple as that. Apply this to other food-allergy-related questions as necessary.

My response:

The fact is that we are eating more gluten than ever before. And more dairy. And more soy, etc. Even sesame allergies are increasing… why? Because people are consuming more and more sesame. Same goes for sugar consumption. So there is the reality that our environment (what we eat) is changing and our bodies cannot cope with the change.

Unless your statistics are different than mine, there are about the same number of people with nut allergies as there are with celiac. This doesn’t include the many more who are non-celiac gluten intolerant. Food allergies are also much different than gluten intolerance or celiac disease — with food allergies, you generally know right away that you are reacting to it. With intolerance or even celiac disease, the symptoms can be more subtle and can develop over time. There is no reason to avoid a food if you are not allergic or intolerant to it. But if you are, then you should.

It doesn’t take determination to be gluten intolerant, but it does take determination to get diagnosed, to recognize that gluten and other foods really are responsible for people’s ill health and to stay on the diet. I personally write about being gluten-free and hope to educate others so they don’t have to be sick like I was. It’s frustrating and depressing to think about relatives whose lives could have been longer and healthier if only we had known about the problems that gluten can cause.

I wonder why you are so anti-gluten-free?

I believe the logic that is being used to call the gluten-free diet a fad is as follows:
1% of the population has celiac disease (every article and doctor quotes the celiac statistic as this). Of this 1%, only 3% are diagnosed (another statistic often quoted). So clearly, more than just diagnosed celiacs are buying and eating gluten-free food. Therefore, the people buying gluten-free foods who are not celiacs don’t really need to be eating it and are doing it because it is popular or to lose weight.

Here is the key point that is missing from this logic and continues to be my frustration… there exist more people with gluten sensitivity than people with celiac disease! It is a real condition, just like celiac disease. Just because there are no official statistics does not mean that it doesn’t exist. And this will change in the next few years, I’m sure. (For more of my opinions on this, read Think Outside the Celiac Box.) People buy gluten-free food because it makes them feel better. Couldn’t this mean that they are gluten intolerant? That is my simple logic. Also, the definition of a fad is something that is embraced very enthusiastically for a short time. This gluten-free thing is not going away!

What do you think? Fad or here to stay? How would you respond to the commenter who seems to think that gluten-free people are pushing their agenda on others?

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