Home > Health > The great gluten-free scam.

The great gluten-free scam.

By Julia Llewellyn Smith  7th November 2013.      Find Full Article Here:-

Once, pasta and bread were store cupboard staples. Now, many of us are replacing them with ‘healthier’ gluten-free foods. But are they really better for us?

The Gluten Free Aisle in The Fresh Market Grocery Store in South Carolina, USA

The Gluten Free Aisle in The Fresh Market Grocery Store in South Carolina, USA Photo: Patti McConville / Alamy

In a corner of my local, shabby Tesco, whole new ranges of biscuits, breads, cereal bars and even fish fingers have suddenly arrived, all stocked under the label “gluten-free”.

Starbucks around the corner is suddenly offering gluten-free sandwiches, Carluccio’s has gluten-free pasta. A local church, I hear, has sourced gluten-free communion wafers made from potato. In the United States, friends tell me, there are even gluten-free dating sites, uniting enemies of all that’s dough-based.

Gluten-free food, not so long ago a niche product for hippies and those with coeliac disease, is the sustenance of the moment. Socialite Nicole Richie rapped about “chillin’ in my crib makin’ gluten-free spaghetti”. Gwyneth Paltrow has put her children on a no-gluten diet.

Novak Djokovic, who attributes his gluten-free regime to transforming his tennis, now has his dog following it (though Andy Murray who beat him in this year’s Wimbledon final says the same diet made him “lose strength”.)

Even The Great British Bake Off recently devoted its quarter final to “free-from” cakes and loaves.

Perhaps my muscle aches and worsening hay fever isn’t the result – as I feared – of incipient middle age, but of my fondness for bread’s springy texture, something gluten makes possible. If only I could renounce it, maybe my health would improve.

I’m not alone in my doubts: every week another friend (usually one who’s been vegan and who’s done every diet from Atkins to the 5:2) serves me quinoa or macaroons – two gluten-free staples. In a recent survey, more than 25 per cent of Americans claimed they were trying to cut down on gluten or avoid it completely.

It’s increasingly easy to do so. While once gluten-free products were available only in the dusty corners of health-food shops, today 80 per cent of all such products are sold in supermarkets. According to the Food Standards Agency, the British gluten-free market is worth £238 million annually and grew by more than 15 per cent last year. In the US, it’s worth around $2.6 billion, a growth of 36 per cent since 2006, with predictions it may double in size in the next two years. Across Europe, demand is soaring – with even carb-loving citizens of countries like Italy now demanding gluten-free pasta and pizza. India with its growing middle class is also touted as a potential huge market.

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