By Kaitlin Hastie : Student ID 215268319 : WordPress User khastie
A diet, fad or society revolution. The rise in gluten free diets.
Just over 5 years ago I was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease. At the time I thought my life was over. It meant that I could no longer eat some of my favourite foods. No more white fluffy bread with vegemite, no more late night cookie snacks, and to my mums horror I now had a legitimate reason to avoid weetbix. In the beginning of my diagnoses no one really understood what Coeliac Disease was, and what it actually meant to be Gluten Free.
Times have changed, and we now see an emergence of popularity in following a gluten free diet, with the Australian Gluten Free market worth over $100 million. While this trend has done wonders to my pantry for the range of foods that are now available to me, it does make me question – why does going gluten free have such a strong following?
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein that has been found in staple foods such as wheat, rye and barley for hundreds of years.
Who actually is gluten free?
Coeliac disease effects around 1 in 70 Australians, with around 80% of this number that go undiagnosed. Coeliac Disease is where the immune system reacts abnormally to gluten causing small bowel damage. There are a number of serious health consequences, such as bowel cancer, that can result if the condition is not treated properly.
Is gluten free actually healthier?
Unfortunately what many people do not understand is that eating gluten free does not mean that it is necessarily healthier for you. The fact that many people believe this has become a point of satire within the media world. Clips from ABC’s The Checkout and a Southpark episode titled ‘Gluten Free Ebola’, all establish the fact that eating gluten free is not healthier for you.
Dr Martin Meltrnam, the Gastroenterologist in the ABC’s The Checkout, supports that there is no scientific evidence that going gluten free is actually healthier for you. Most Gluten free foods are supplemented with higher levels of sugar and fat to make them more tasty. Not only that, but gluten free products are substantially more expensive, and according to the Australian Coeliac Society can on average add an additional $1000 to your annual grocery bill.
Why do so many people follow a gluten free diet?
For the most part I would argue that many of the people on a gluten free diet have done so because they perceive that it is healthier. High profile celebrities, such as Gywneth Paltrow, Miley Cyrus, Novak Djokovic and The Kardashian’s, have all been seen in social media stating the perceived health benefits of following a gluten free diet. These comments from celebrities have a positive influence upon their followers, and as such the gluten free diet is perceived in a positive light as being more healthy. This follows the Halo Theory, that we like to follow a persons thoughts, attitude, lifestyle, without subconsciously realizing it.
However it is not just celebrities that are endorsing the Gluten Free diet. Health Care companies, such as Medibank, are providing ‘Gluten Free’ guides. This is very cleaver marketing by the health care giant, focusing on the attitudes of society to gain more customers. This gluten free booklet reaches out to the psychological and sociological influences around customer behaviour, by showing any future customers that Medibank both supports the gluten free diet trend as ‘healthier’ and understands that its customers need help in following this trend.
Will the trend continue?
As with all diets, they move in an out of popularity. While I have to be thankful to my fellow Gluten Free supporters, I do have concerns over what the future of gluten free will look like.
Will manufactures still decide to produce gluten free goods – regardless of the cost? Will cafes still choose to have large options of gluten free meals on offer? Will supermarkets still dedicate half an aisle to these products? I would like to believe yes, however unfortunately I think no.
While the majority of the population can jump to the new diet trend that is sure to emerge, I am and will always be – riding that Gluten Free Train.