Sunday, August 2, 2009

Is the gluten-free diet a fad?

Slate recently ran an article questioning whether following the gluten free diet has become a fad. Tiffany Jakubowski, Denver's Gluten Free Food Examiner, wrote a wonderful response: Is the gluten-free diet a fad?

As for me, I have to agree with Tiffany's point about Elisabeth Hasselbeck's book The G-Free Diet. While I can appreciate Ms. Hasselbeck's desire to share her experiences with others, she is creating a great deal of misinformation about the diet that is detrimental to the newly diagnosed and annoying to those of us who know better. A gluten free diet is not about losing weight, and in fact I hate referring to it as a diet at all. The fact is, gluten free is a lifestyle and not one to be undertaken lightly. If you must remove gluten from your diet, be prepared to commit fully and for life. For those of us living it, it is a commitment to our health.

I also think that what seems to be a fad to Slate is really what we in the science industry call critical mass. The number of people living the lifestyle is finally reaching large enough numbers for food companies to pay attention to us. Gluten intolerance or sensitivity, and celiac disease are receiving more attention from doctors, researchers, and the media. It's not that gluten free is becoming a fad, it's that the information about gluten free living is more readily available than it used to be which is in turn driving the sales for gluten free products. That's good news for those of us who consume those products. We're driving the market, not the other way around.

And on a final note, if gluten free is a fad, it's an expensive one. Most people I know still assume that gluten free products are inferior in taste and texture to "normal" food (I'm trying to change this). I can't think of anyone who would pay twice as much for what they perceive to be lower quality food unless they believed it was medically necessary.

Whether you believe it's a fad or not, the gluten free lifestyle is here and that's good news for this girl.

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