About one-third of U.S. adults are trying to cut back on the amount of gluten in their diets or are trying to eliminate gluten entirely, according to a survey released a few days ago by the NPD Group, Inc., a consumer research firm.
"This is the health issue of the day," said Harry Balzer, the firm's chief industry analyst, in a statement. He added that the desire to go gluten-free is growing, while the numbers of people expressing the desire to avoid more fat, cholesterol, sugar and sodium are not getting bigger.
In fact, even though the percentage of people who said they wanted to avoid gluten dipped slightly in mid-2011, indicating the trend might have run its course at that point, it's since surged back and is building faster than ever, according to the NPD Group's tracking survey.
Data from NPD indicates that interest in gluten-free restaurant menus also is growing, and gluten-free meals accounted for more than 200 million restaurant visits in the past year. That's "too large for restaurant operators to ignore," according to the research firm.
So what does this mean for those of us who are following the gluten-free diet because we have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity? There are some downsides -- for example, people who are sloppy in following the diet make it more difficult for those of us who can't eat a speck of gluten without reacting to impress that fact upon wait staff in restaurants.
However, on balance I think it's a really positive thing -- I remember how amazed I was at how good I felt when I first went gluten-free (and frankly, how good I continue to feel). I wish that for others to discover, too.
Image © The NPD Group