Warning over risks of going gluten free just to follow celebs
It may be popular with A-List celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, but gluten-free diets "are not as healthy as people think".
One-in-five Irish people regularly shops for gluten-free products despite only 1pc of the population being medically diagnosed with coeliac disease, according to a new report by Bord Bia.
Gillian McConnell, consultant dietitian with Inside Out Nutrition, said: "Gluten-free products are low in fibre which is worrying, as you can miss out on the recommended 30g of fibre a day."
Ms McConnell said the products were "extremely processed" as additives are brought in to replace the gluten, which is necessary to provide elasticity in bread and other gluten products.
The Bord Bia report said the gluten-free market in Ireland is estimated to be worth some €66m, an increase of 36pc on last year.
"People need to ask themselves why are they getting gluten-free products? If it is because of stomach problems or they think they are coeliac they need to get that checked out from a legitimate allergy tester," Ms McConnell said.
"It's the latest fad to be avoiding gluten but in some cases it can cause more harm than good when they are perfectly fine."
A new wealth of products like "gluten-free alcoholic drinks" - adding to the already extensive range of gluten-free products - have increased the demand, according to Paula Donoghue, Bord Bia's consumer insight manager.
"Traditionally, gluten-free offerings were only available in pharmacies or health food stores, whereas now there is proliferation right across the retail chain.
"The market has experienced an increase in the number of available products as well as double-digit growth in supermarkets," said Ms Donoghue.
She said publicity from the likes of Paltrow and Novak Djokovic have added to "noise around the topic".
The Bord Bia research found 38pc of people with no symptoms chose to follow a gluten-free diet as they believed it would lead to a better lifestyle.
Ms Donoghue said she believed there was an opportunity for suppliers to expand gluten-free product availability with such growing demand.
"Now is the time for food producers to increase availability as demand is there," she said.
"Consumers have high expectations around quality so we recommend that companies work towards positioning products and brands that are natural and taste great but just happen to be gluten free.
"Bread is the barometer product for gluten free as fresh bread is the product they miss most."