USA TODAY - About 2.7 million Americans avoid gluten in their diet, but 1.76 million have celiac disease, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine this week.
Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys showed from 2009 to 2014, participants who reported having celiac didn’t exceed 0.77%. During the same period, participants who didn’t have the disease, but avoided gluten more than tripled.
A study released in July, said those without celiac who experience abdominal pain, bloating and fatigue after eating wheat and related products could have a weakened intestinal barrier, another reason they might go gluten-free.
Registered dietitian Judi Adams, president of the Wheat Foods Council, previously told USA TODAY some people choose the diet because of a non-celiac gluten sensitivity or irritable bowel syndrome, "but the people who are using it as a cleansing diet or calorie-controlled diet are using it as a fad diet, and as we all know fad diets do not work longterm." Actually, she said, people often gain weight on gluten-free diets.
A gluten-free label doesn't necessarily mean healthy, Rachel Begun, MS, RDN, nutrition strategist and Beyond Celiac Scientific/Medical Advisory Council Member warns.
"A gluten-free cookie is still a cookie, not a health food," Begun said.
Begun also told USA TODAY in an email interview those who believe they are sensitive to gluten should not self-diagnose or treat.
"Many gluten-containing foods contain other components you may be reacting to," she said. "So, taking them out of the diet may make you feel better, but for a different reason than removing the gluten."
Gluten-free diets were most popular with those ages 20 to 39, females and non-Hispanic whites, lead study author Dr. Hyun-seok Kim told Live Science.
This study is the first to use national data to track people with celiac and those following a gluten-free diet without a medical need to do so, Kim told Live Science.
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