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Gluten-Free: It Works Until It Becomes a Fad

A look at how new gluten-free products are affecting Americans, and their bank accounts.

Photo: Dunkin' Donuts
Photo: Dunkin' Donuts
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Dunkin' Donuts will add two gluten-free items to its pastry repertoire by the end of the year. A smart move when you consider that market researchers say nearly one third of Americans are cutting, or altogether eliminating, their gluten intake.

However, a gluten-free lifestyle is a medical necessity for a fraction of its participants. Celiac disease, which causes damage to the small intestine, afflicts only 1 percent of the population. Certainly others have a gluten sensitivity, but many Americans give up the gluten in an attempt to shed some pounds.

Nutritionist Ian Marber
thinks gluten has been popularly exiled “because it’s so prevalent. If you make any adjustment to your diet, say you stop eating foods with the letter ‘l’ in them, you may well lose weight, simply because you’re making far better food choices than you were previously.”

According to Susan Bowerman, assistant director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition,
“It used to be that a gluten-free diet almost assured weight loss, because there were very few alternatives except for fruits and vegetables." But increasingly, we have donuts and other snacks as alternatives.

The gluten-free cinnamon-sugar doughnut from Dunkin' Donuts will contain 320 calories
, while their regular sugar raised donut has 230 calories. At this rate, it’ll take gluten-free dieters twice the willpower to slim down as they’re forced to resist regular goodies in addition to their now-available gluten-free counterparts.

Their wallets may lighten up, though. The price of gluten-free products is “significantly higher,” than their standard equivalents. One market research firm concluded that the gluten-free market was $4.2 billion dollars in the United States alone last year and predicts it will balloon to $6.6 billion in 2017.

Ian Marber isn’t opposed to a gluten-free diet on principle: “If it makes you happy, do it! By buying that expensive stuff, you’ll certainly be making someone else very happy.”

Do you think a gluten-free diet is a healthy choice or a fad? Tell us in the comments or in a blog post.

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