The gluten free fad is just that; a fad. Living gluten free is a fake necessity for most people, and the products stemming from the fad are a huge waste of money and resources, according to the science about gluten. Although social media websites like Facebook and Twitter have been filling up in recent days with anecdotes about people who have gone gluten free and thus been “cured” of a variety of symptoms, the science behind gluten and celiac disease says that investing in gluten free products is a waste of money for 99% of people buying into the fad.
That’s because under 1% of Americans actually have celiac disease—the disease that makes it dangerous to eat gluten. People with celiac disease have a serious condition that makes it necessary for them to avoid gluten altogether. There is a percentage of people who may have “non celiac gluten sensitivity,” but it represents a small fraction of the overall population, and even they do not need to avoid gluten entirely say experts. There are others who have a true wheat allergy, although this is also rare. The majority of people–about 95-99%, have no underlying medical condition that should preclude them from eating gluten, say experts.
The fake necessity of living gluten free and the proponents of the fad have created a billion dollar industry that tricks people into thinking they must give up gluten when in fact there is no medical reason to do so. Experts in the medical field say that people routinely conflate anecdote with evidence, and that those following a gluten free lifestyle do so with no evidence to support their choice. Some people may even be imagining their gastrointestinal distress and creating skin conditions such as hives due to the belief that gluten causes these and other problems. Thus, they often purchase products that are a big waste of money.
Further, say doctors, much harm can come to a person’s health if they decide to go gluten free for no real medical reason. Products rich in gluten often contain a wide variety of vitamins and minerals that are important for optimal health, especially B vitamins, and cutting those nutrients out of the diet can result in severe negative consequences.
The science behind the fad is clear, says ASU scientist Glenn Gaesser. “For the vast majority of Americans, there is literally no published scientific evidence that would suggest that gluten-free is a healthier alternative than what they are currently eating,” he says.
There is plenty of anecdotal evidence available online, both from individuals and “natural” health and wellness blogs that tout the benefits of going gluten free. When the science is examined, though, no evidence is available that would support the gluten free lifestyle for the vast majority of Americans.
Further, gluten free products are very expensive; much more expensive than comparable products that contain gluten. The gluten free lifestyle may strain people’s budgets as they try to incorporate gluten free foods into their diets.
Gluten free is a fake necessity and the products are a waste of money according to scientists in the nutrition field. Further, anyone considering a gluten free lifestyle in the absence of a legitimate medical diagnosis that would warrant such a change in eating habits should be aware of the nutritional deficiencies that may arise from their new diet.
By: Rebecca Savastio