Gluten-Free: Fad Diet Or Underused
August 1, 2012

Gluten-Free: Becoming A Fad Diet, But Many Still Remain Undiagnosed With Celiac

[ Watch the Video: "Celiac Disease Symptoms" ]

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

Going gluten-free has become a popular dining option. However, a new analysis produced by the Mayo Clinic discovered that approximately 1.8 million American have celiac disease, but roughly 1.4 million are not aware that they have the disorder.

The researchers also discovered that 1.6 million people in the U.S. practice a gluten-free diet, even though many of them have not been diagnosed with celiac disease. They believe that the study by the Mayo Clinic is the most definitive study on the celiac disease. The results were recently published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.

"This provides proof that this disease is common in the United States," commented co-author Dr. Joseph Murray, a Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist, in a prepared statement. "If you detect one person for every five or six (who have it), we aren't doing a very good job detecting celiac disease."

The scientists described celiac disease as a digestive disorder caused by consumption of wheat, rye, and barley. Celiac disease can cause abdominal pain, bloating, and intermittent diarrhea. People who have the disease can also suffer fatigue, rashes, and weight loss as a result of the difficulty their stomach has in absorbing nutrients. Those who subscribe to a gluten-free diet avoid eating protein gluten and many people on gluten-free diets do so to treat celiac disease. The researchers also believe that about 80 percent of people who are on a gluten-diet free choose to do so despite not having been diagnosed with the celiac disease.

"There are a lot of people on a gluten-free diet, and it's not clear what the medical need for that is," explained Murray in the statement. "It is important if someone thinks they might have celiac disease that they be tested first before they go on the diet."

In the study, researchers combined blood tests with interviews to identify celiac disease in a national survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The survey, titled National Health and Nutrition Exam Survey, was created to measure the health and nutrition of U.S. adults and children. It is believed to be a unique exam in its combination of interviews and physical examinations.

Based on their findings, the team of investigators concluded that celiac disease was found more often in Caucasians.

"In fact, virtually all the individuals we found were non-Hispanic Caucasians," noted co-author Dr. Alberto Rubio-Tapia, a Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist, in the statement.

The results from the study differ from previous research completed in Mexico that showed that celiac disease could be found as much in Mexico as in the U.S.; the study by Rubio-Tapa and colleagues showed that celiac disease was as common in Europe as in the U.S.

"So that is something we don't fully understand," remarked Rubio-Tapia in the statement.

Apart from the studies, some believe that the gluten-free trend is based around weight loss; many who go gluten-free want to lose weight or feel that gluten-free will help them feel better.

“We have a lot of self-diagnosing going on out there,” commented Melissa Abbott, an employee at a market research organization that tracks the gluten-free market, in an article by the Washington Post.