"Meet the latest dietary bad boy: gluten," starts Kim Painter's USA Today article "Gluten-free diets gaining in popularity" (August 17, 2008).
Painter notes that "Marketers estimate that 15% to 25% of consumers want gluten-free foods — though doctors estimate just 1% have celiac disease, the best-defined and most severe form of gluten intolerance, says Cynthia Kupper, executive director of the non-profit Gluten Intolerance Group of North America (GIG)." Painter also quotes American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Dee Sandquist as saying that there is "a fad aspect" to the diet among college students.
Painter cites Dr. Alessio Fasano as noting that 110,000 Americans have been diagnosed with celiac disease, up from 40,000 in 2003—but that about 2,890,000 remain undiagnosed. He notes that, besides those people, there are those who may react poorly to gluten even though they do not test positive for celiac disease. Sandquist surmises that others might feel better on a gluten-free diet because they may be eating more fruits and vegetables and less fast food and processed food.
Dr. Peter Green (right) of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University (CDCCU) stresses the importance of getting an exact diagnosis from a doctor, which is best done while on a gluten-inclusive diet.
If, as the article suggests, the growing "popularity" of gluten-free diets might offer more and better dining options, just imagine how much better it would be if the millions of people with undiagnosed celiac disease received correct diagnoses. Their health would improve while their numbers would enhance a fad-proof gluten-free market.
A sidebar identifies the following trouble signs that one should discuss with a physician:
• Frequent diarrhea
• Frequent constipation
• Frequent bloating
• Unintended weight loss
• Failure to grow (in children)
• Unexplained fatigue
• Frequent headaches
• Bone or joint pain
• Itchy skin lesions
• Tooth enamel defects
• Mouth ulcers