Study Reminds Vast Majority of Americans They Really Don’t Need Gluten-Free Diets

Might be better than Gwyneth Paltrow would have you believe. Photo: Sebastien Bozon/AFP/Getty Images

Some new research comparing gluten-free Americans with actual celiacs has confirmed what rational minds have long suspected: The majority of newfound aversions to wheat aren’t doctor-recommended. The findings are from a study published Wednesday in JAMA Internal Medicine that followed 22,000 subjects; it found that, while the number of people on the fad diet tripled between 2009 and 2014, the proportion claiming to be diagnosed with celiac disease actually fell by 17 percent.

Per data used by the study, prevalence of the disease held pretty steady over those five years (it was 0.7 percent of the population in 2009–10, versus 0.58 percent in 2013–14), but the percent of Americans without celiac who avoided gluten anyway climbed from 0.5 percent in 2009–10 to 1.7 percent in 2013–14. The authors list all of the usual explanations for why — things like “perception that it may be healthier,” “growing availability of gluten-free products,” “self-diagnosis of gluten sensitivity,” and the fact that “the diet is trendy.” They also concede that greater public awareness of celiac could be causing incidence of the disease to level off, but whether this is true or not, the dive definitely underscores how insanely profitable the once-niche gluten-free industry has become: A diet followed by maybe 5 million Americans has grown into a $15 billion–a–year industry with its own glossy magazines, Girl Scout cookies , and Chick-fil-A sandwich buns.

Study Says Way More People Are Gluten-Free Than Need to Be