It’s estimated that around 1% of the U.S. population suffer from celiac disease. More suffer from gluten intolerance or have other health conditions which benefit sticking to a gluten-free diet. Still, gluten sensitivity, including celiac disease and other causes, is estimated to affect less than 2% of the U.S. population. So why is the market for gluten-free foods growing as fast as it is?

An interesting article from Gastroenterology and Endoscopy News reports that the annual market for gluten-free foods in the United states was more than $4 billion. That’s a whole lot of gluten-free food if only 2% of the population are thought to be affected by the protein.

This huge increase in the availability of gluten-free foods has increased awareness of gluten sensitivity, but investigators from Columbia University, who presented their findings at last year’s annual meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology were unable to find a corresponding increase in the prevalence of problems with digesting gluten.

Whilst diagnosis of celiac disease is increasing slightly, the National health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2009-10) found that most of the people who were following a gluten-free diet did not have a celiac diagnosis.

We know that gluten-free foods seem to appeal to many people who don’t need to be eating gluten-free but what are the reasons for this? Is non-celiac gluten sensitivity being drastically underestimated? Perhaps those are eating gluten-free to help with other conditions such as thyroid problems? Or is is simply fad-dieting?

I would love to see more research on this topic! What are your thoughts? Why do you eat gluten-free? Why do you think the market for gluten-free foods has grown so drastically over the last few years?