Each year US consumers buy $2.5 billion dollars worth of gluten-free products. It may be that up to 20% of Americans are living gluten-free.
Why do people decide to go gluten-free? Less than 1% of the population are diagnosed with celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease affecting genetically predisposed individuals that is triggered by consuming gluten. The treatment is to avoid gluten the in the diet. Some people may have a food allergy to wheat, but wheat allergies are very rare and unlikely to develop in adult life. Some people are intolerant of gluten and have a collection of gastrointestinal and other symptoms that are relieved by avoiding gluten in the diet. Research is needed to gain more knowledge about the extent of gluten sensitivity, its causes, and how best to diagnose it.
But given the huge market for gluten-free products, it is possible that rather than going gluten-free because of medical necessity, sometimes we choose gluten-free products because they are marketed to us as beneficial to our health and our waistlines.
Gluten-free is not necessarily risk free. Eliminating whole grains can reduce fiber intake. How much salt, sugar, and fat is in the product? And gluten-free products may be expensive to buy.