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Friday, September 17, 2010

Gluten-free has gone big time, but why so popular?

09/16/2010 - Michael Hill - Associated Press

This July 5, 2005 file photo shows gluten-free products on
display at a Hannaford Supermarket in Albany, N.Y. U.S.
sales of gluten-free food has more than doubled
since 2005 to over $1.5 billion, according to the market research
company Packaged Facts. And the growth spurt
is expected to continue at least through 2012.
(AP Photo/Jim McKnight, FILE)
Gwyneth Paltrow gushes over gluten-free. Chelsea Clinton's wedding cake was baked without it. The new Old Spice guy avoids the ubiquitous protein to help stay buff. In fact, odds are good you too have tried — or at least encountered — a product with the gluten removed.

Because gluten-free is what low-carb was a decade ago: The "it" diet discussed on daytime talk shows, promoted by hyper-slim actresses and adopted by masses. Grocery aisles are stocked with the likes of gluten-free pasta, crackers, cereal and beer.

Americans are enthusiastically exiling a dietary staple that wasn't even in most people's vocabulary a decade ago.

But why?

Unlike some other dietary boogeymen like trans-fats, gluten is not inherently bad to eat. Only a small percentage of people can't tolerate the protein, which occurs naturally in wheat, barley and rye. Plus, banning gluten from your diet can be really hard.

Not only is gluten an essential element of traditional breads and pastas (it's the protein that gives them their structure), it often is used as a thickening agent in processed foods, such as ketchup and ice cream. And cutting out gluten is no guarantee of weight loss.

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