Gluten Free for You and Me?

According to Packaged Facts, gluten-free sales reached more than $2.6 billion by the end of 2010 and are now expected to exceed more than $5 billion by 2015. Why? It turns out that there are lots of reasons to explore gluten-free foods -- gluten sensitivities and an interest in new, healthful foods are just a few of the reasons for a rise in gluten-free sales.

Celiac Facts

Celiac disease is an autoimmune digestive disease that damages the villi of the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food.

One in 133 Americans has celiac disease. An estimated 3 million Americans across all races, ages and genders suffer from celiac disease.

Did you know that 95% of celiacs go undiagnosed or are misdiagnosed with other conditions?*  In fact, the average time that a person waits for a correct diagnosis is 6-10 years!**

Celiac disease can lead to a number of other disorders, including infertility, reduced bone density, neurological disorders, some cancers, and other autoimmune diseases.

There are NO pharmaceutical cures for celiac disease. A 100% gluten-free diet is the only existing treatment for celiac today.

Why Go Gluten-Free?

Many people adopt a gluten-free diet because it is a trend in stores now. Here are some pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Going gluten-free can be a great way to try new grains. Amaranth, corn, rice, and quinoa are all gluten-free. Make them whole grain and low in fat and sodium and you have a winning base for a meal! Be sure to keep MyPlate’s portion guidelines in mind.
  • Giving up gluten and wheat might mean giving up a lot of unhealthful refined wheat choices, like croissants, cookies and white bread.

Cons:

  • Gluten-free foods can be expensive -- often two to three times the cost of their gluten-tastic companions.
  • Gluten-free products can still be high in sodium, sugar, and/or fat. Gluten-free does not automatically mean a food is healthful. Check the Nutrition Facts panel before tossing a new food in your cart.

* Fasano A, et al. Arch Intern Med. 2003;163:286-292.

** Daniel Leffler, MD, MS, The Celiac Center at Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center

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