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Fad Diet? People are Going Gaga for Gluten-Free Despite No Proven Health Benefits

Sep 08, 2016 04:21 AM EDT

Gluten-free diets is said to offer celiac sufferers a respite from chronic symptoms that many have endured for years. However, the current popularity of being gluten-free seems to be a fad completely removed from any medical proof.

Statistics show that about 60 perfect of people adhering to a gluten-free diet do not have celiac disease. A team of scientists from Rutgers New Jersey Medical School published a study in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine discussing celiac disease and gluten-free diet trends from 2009 to 2014.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes hypersensitivity to gluten. Symptoms can be severe and include problems in the digestive and musculoskeletal systems; other health problems often accompany celiac disease.

The team analyzed data collected from 22,278 individuals courtesy of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES). Each person underwent a blood test for celiac disease as well as answered questions about previous diagnosis for the disease and dietary choices.

Results were in line with the national statistics. There were 106 people in the data sample who had celiac disease, and 213 people who were gluten-free despite not having celiac disease.

Numbers of celiac diagnoses remained fairly steady during the time range of the data sample. Conversely, gluten-free diet practitioners increased significantly from 0.52 percent to 1.69 percent of people studied. It is possible that the number of people eating less gluten could be driving down the numbers of those developing celiac disease, Science Daily reports.

According to Mayo Clinic, gluten is a protein found in many grains. It's unclear whether people who follow a gluten-free diet but do not have celiac disease benefit in any way. In fact, avoiding gluten when it's not necessary to do so could potentially have harmful health effects, Nutrition Facts reports.

The popularity of gluten-free diets has affected celiac sufferers in multiple ways. It has removed the social stigma associated with the disease and generated a plethora of food choices.

However, prices have increased because of the high demand, and restaurant workers may no longer take people seriously when they say they are gluten intolerant. Cross contamination can have serious consequences for people with celiac disease.

It will be interesting to see if gluten-free is truly a fad, or if this diet has staying power.

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