Sep 12, 2009 10:52 AM by Jamie Smith
It's the new buzz word in the grocery aisles: "Gluten free." "Sales are up double digits over a year ago, just in gluten free type products," Gary Huddleston of Kroger Grocery Store said.
Celebrities are touting gluten free foods for everything from weight loss to curing attention deficit disorder. And companies are cashing in.
Gluten free is more than a fad diet - sales of these products are being driven by a rapidly growing number of people diagnosed with gluten allergies. A new study by the Mayo Clinic shows celiac disease -- an immune system reaction to gluten -- is now four times more common than it was 50 years ago.
"I am making what I consider a sandwich - it's a lettuce wrap," Christi Lancaster, a celiac disease patient, said. Lancaster was diagnosed with celiac disease after getting so sick she lost 60 pounds and wound up in the hospital.
Today she can't touch gluten. "Within 2 days I start to feel a headache come on, I get constipated. My stomach starts grumbling and stays like that for a couple weeks," she said.
Doctors aren't sure exactly why more people have celiac today. But it may be diagnosed more -- because we're looking harder. "So we're testing a lot more people and the tests we have are much better at making the diagnosis - the lab tests that we can do," Dr. David Levitan, a gastroenterologist, said.
As for the diets, they're generally safe for everyone but probably not the cure-all some people claim. "It's a healthy way to go, it's not going to hurt you but in general it's not a panacea for these kinds of things," Dr. Levitan said.
Still - there's a positive side effect of this fad. More food choices for people who have to eat gluten free.
Ironically people with celiac disease do not lose weight on a gluten free diet -- it's just the opposite. They lose weight when they eat gluten -- often times because it makes them so sick.