An estimated 1.6 million Americans eating gluten-free have adopted the diet without having a celiac disease diagnosis, according to a new study from the Mayo Clinic.
The research confirms food industry reports that have found more people are buying gluten-free food for a variety of health reasons. But researchers caution against going gluten-free without first undergoing proper testing.
“There are a lot of people on a gluten-free diet, and it’s not clear what the medical need for that is,” said Joseph Murray, MD, of the Mayo Clinic, a co-author of the study and a member of NFCA’s Scientific/Medical Advisory Council. “It is important if someone thinks they might have celiac disease that they be tested first before they go on the diet.”
The new study, which investigated a nationally representative sample of 7,798 persons aged 6 years or older who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2009-2010, found that celiac disease is still largely underdiagnosed. Only about 1 in 5 or 6 people who have celiac disease are diagnosed, according to Dr. Murray.
Researchers also found that celiac disease is more common in Caucasians, but more research is needed. “That is something we don’t fully understand,” said Alberto Rubio-Tapia, MD, of the Mayo Clinic.
For more information, read the press release.