Gluten Free, In Style
It’s difficult to ignore the fact that gluten free is getting trendy. If the gluten-free menus and the understanding nods I get when ordering in urban restaurants haven’t clued me in, I can’t argue with the numbers. Despite the slow economy, sales of gluten-free products in this country have more than doubled over the past six years, with market projections exceeding $1.6 billion by 2015.
Alessio Fasano, MD, medical director of the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research, says that 18 to 20 million Americans are gluten sensitive. (Some would argue with him but let’s assume for the sake of discussion that he’s correct.) Add to that the 3 million celiacs and the 600,000 or so who are wheat-allergic. If I include those of us with true food allergies as well as those with food intolerances, we’ve got a special-diet movement that’s substantial and growing. And that’s not yet counting the people who are gluten free because they’re catching fad fever.
As my adult children often declare, when it comes to keeping up with the latest fashion, I’m not normally “really happening.” To be honest, I’m never happening. So it’s nice to be part of a movement that’s getting popular.
Look at the celebrities who are jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon. Chelsea Clinton, tennis star Novak Djokovic and Elisabeth Hasselbeck are avoiding gluten, to name a few. (I interviewed Hasselbeck, a celiac, for Living Without a few months back and was charmed.) We just did a Q&A (published in Feb/March, our next issue) with actress Leslie Bibb, star of the upcoming TV show Good Christian Belles, about her gluten sensitivity and how she’s adapted to the gluten-free lifestyle. Today I read in Reuters that Oprah Winfrey and Gwyneth Paltrow go gluten free as part of a detox regimen.
It’s nice to be in such stylish company.
The goods news about this popularity is that there are more and more wonderful products out there for us. How great is that? (I've been making homemade gluten-free, dairy-free bread with this new mix—it's Bella Gluten Free, bellaglutenfree.com—that, I swear, makes a multi-grain loaf as good or better than any wheat bread. But I digress...)
True, all this popularity coupled with lack of labeling standards increases the risk that companies may claim their product is gluten free without scrupulously addressing cross contamination. But for now…just for a moment…let me bask in the fact that I’m feeling hip.