Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Bloated cost of a gluten-free diet is hard to digest --- BOSTON (Reuters) - When Alice Bast was diagnosed with celiac disease in 1994, she had to scour local health-food stores and send away to Canada for the gluten-free food her condition necessitated. -- Two decades later, Jennifer Dillon received the same diagnosis but found gluten-free choices much closer to home - in the way of takeout from the Chinese restaurant down the street, options at the local supermarket, and on the shelves of a nearby CVS. -- Despite the difference in when the two women went gluten-free, they have something in common: The lofty price of their gluten-free diets is hard to swallow, coming at a significant premium to the price of conventional food items. -- Dillon estimates that where she used to spend $90 per week on groceries for her family of four, her weekly bill now is at least $130. -- Overall, Americans will spend an estimated $7 billion this year on foods labeled gluten-free, according to consumer research firm Mintel. -- It can be twice as expensive to eat gluten-free, says Bast, who is president of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. "Our surveys tell us this is the number-one stressor for celiac patients, especially the newly diagnosed." -- The University of Chicago's Celiac Disease Center estimates that about 3 million Americans have celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation in the small intestine and leads to malnutrition. -- Going sans gluten means more than giving up wheat-based bread, cereal, pasta, and beer. It's also found in less obvious products, such as soy sauce, salad dressing, even toothpaste. -- Many people without celiac disease are excluding gluten as well from their diets, to combat food allergies, to ease gastrointestinal issues or arthritis, even to lose weight. -- Indeed, avoiding gluten has quickly become the latest food fad in a long list, ranging from the low-fat diets of the 1980s to the Atkins and other diets in which the consumption of carbohydrates is avoided or limited. --- While going gluten-free is the only treatment option for celiac patients, for others, gluten-avoidance may well be a waste of money. -- In a 2012 essay in the Annals of Internal Medicine, Italian celiac researchers Antonio Di Sabatini and Gino Roberto Corazza note that there is no good test to diagnose nonceliac gluten sensitivity and, despite the hype, there is not enough scientific evidence of the health benefits that have been associated with going gluten-free. -- Without further research, the authors warn against a "gluten preoccupation from evolving into the conviction that gluten is toxic for most of the population." -- For those determined to eat gluten-free, fewer choices and availability continue to drive up the cost. -- That's despite the fact that plenty of widely available, more reasonably priced food - such as fruit, vegetables, dairy and non-processed meat - is naturally gluten-free. - More, Kathleen Kingsbury, MSN, at: http://money.msn.com/business-news/article.aspx?feed=OBR&date=20140304&id=17403755


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