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Will Fickle Fad Dieters Kill Gluten-free Food Demand? 12/12/2014 - Are celebrity claims of weight loss and improved health on a gluten-free diet driving people without celiac disease to temporarily inflate the market for gluten-free foods? Is that market headed for a downtrun if these people go back to gluten?

Photo: Wikimedia Commons--Roland ScheicherThe market for gluten-free food has definitely gotten a boost from people looking to gluten-free food to help them lose weight or to improve their health, even though there is no good science to support such claims. More than half of the 90-plus million Americans who follow a gluten-free diet believe the diet to be “healthier” and more than one-quarter do so to lose weight. So what happens if these reasons are not borne out by science, or by experience? Will the market for gluten-free products begin to shrink?

Fassano thinks this is a possibility, saying that people who embrace “junk” reasons for following a gluten-free diet will likely not follow the diet for a lifetime. He explained that people without celiac disease or gluten-intolerance will only loose weight or become healthier if “they cut out pizza and donuts or other unhealthy foods made with gluten.”

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There’s currently no hard evidence of a downturn in the demand for gluten-free food, but the high percentage of people eating and buying gluten-free for incorrect or whimsical reasons certainly has industry analysts a bit concerned. If a significant portion of those people switch back to gluten-containing foods, the market could see swift shrinkage, and many gluten-free products and offerings might disappear.

Certainly, people with celiac disease have benefitted from the explosion in gluten-free products, but has the gluten-free diet become too associated with fad dieters and celebrity health claims? Could reduced gluten-free demand have a negative impact on product options for people with celiac disease?

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9 Responses:
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said this on
15 Dec 2014 8:58:31 AM PST
This is my fear. What happens when the "Me Too" crowd decide on another fad and will that leave the gluten free market devoid of the choices that have popped up in the past couple of years?

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said this on
15 Dec 2014 11:02:27 AM PST
While I've welcomed the broader choices and better quality of gluten free food, this has been a concern of mine for years. I don't want to return to the days when I couldn't eat in restaurants, mushy GF pasta and pasty bread!

Eileen Dueck

said this on
15 Dec 2014 12:34:14 PM PST
I am celiac and don't mind the increased products stating gluten free. However, I find many of them are not actually gluten free and it has caused me many problems. I still have to stay with the things I am assured of. They are allowed to put some gluten in and still call it gluten free by the FDA. That is the big problem.

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said this on
15 Dec 2014 2:12:59 PM PST
Most of these are processed foods anyway. No big loss.

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said this on
15 Dec 2014 5:58:10 PM PST
I have Celiac, and I'm allergic to corn, sulfites and have to avoid soy because of my thyroid. Many gluten free food products are loaded with my allergens. So, I don't have many products to choose from, as it is. I would hate to lose what few I can eat. I've already discovered that stores in my area are no longer selling some of the GF food products that are safe for me. Others are putting what few they do sell, in with the regular gluten containing products, and the GF ones are hard to find. I think the gluten-free diet is already rapidly losing it's luster. Not good news for celiacs, for sure.

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said this on
15 Dec 2014 7:44:00 PM PST
When I was diagnosed with diabetes the low carb craze was in full swing. So it was easy to control my blood sugar at first, lots of options. Then the craze died, the options faded. Now also diagnosed with celiac disease, I'm enjoying those popular options, though combining them with a low carb diet can be challenging. I actually gained weight my first year of gluten free because, aside from losing the absorption issues, I went hog wild on cookies and things I wasn't eating even in glutened form. Now I'm back on track. But I don't expect the options to last.

But at least doctors will start listening when you suggest the problem is gluten. I ended up overnight in a cardiac unit because the ER docs simply couldn't hear me when I told them that vomiting from being massively glutened caused my sudden catastrophic drop in blood pressure. IV fluids brought me right back, but no, I had to wait 24 hours in the hospital before they concluded that I really didn't have arrhythmia. At least I got a really thorough heatl screening for the price of my copay!

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said this on
16 Dec 2014 5:49:20 AM PST
I am a fan of the gluten free products but, gained weight adding back (even though GF) bread, pasta, pizza etc. While the flours used in making the aforementioned products are GF they are high in the Glycemic Index, high in carbs, and spike blood sugar. I am now using the GF products on a rare occasion and have lost the weight. I have a thyroid issue and need to be GF so this is not a fad for me. I did fine without all the GF foods on the market and can do it again. They are a great convenience and taste good but the price is too high health wise.

R. Borg
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said this on
18 Dec 2014 7:21:02 PM PST
Fads come and go, but this one has the potential to make things worse for the celiac disease community. I worry about cross contamination and products manufactured in a non-dedicated facility. Once those who can eat gluten tire of being GF (can't run out to McDonald's for a burger), major food producers will cut back on their products. Perhaps that will better for all of us, as most of the processed foods, GF or not, are not healthy.

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said this on
21 Dec 2014 12:30:06 PM PST
Yes, I believe there's already been a "downturn" in GF products. Already Sprouts have shrunk their GF aisle's down to 1. They used to have about 3 or 4. My last 3 or 4 shopping trips there I noticed this, and I'm sick about it. I tell them what I can't find anymore, and corporate doesn't care. The cashiers do, but corporate does not.

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