Gluten Free Diet Statistics 2024 | Surprising Facts & Data

I’ve had a lot of readers ask about different diet fads and trends, and one of the most popular is some form of gluten-free eating. I’ve combed through thousands of pages of research to provide you with the absolute best information about gluten-free diets, demographics, and health outcomes.

Please note, this article doesn’t cover low-carb, Atkins, or Keto diets. We’re looking specifically at gluten-free diets, which in many cases still contain quite high levels of carbohydrates.

Quick Hits

  • Millennials are more likely to be gluten-free than other demographics. [1]
  • Gluten shows up in 80% of all foodstuffs. [2]
  • Most people lean toward gluten free because of Celiac Disease or other intolerances.
  • Many gluten-free diets can have adverse health outcomes.

General Demographics

Many data we can obtain for lifestyle choices have to come from surveys. Because so many reasons exist for people to choose gluten-free diets, it’s helpful to find out some general profile information about them before jumping to medical considerations. According to a sampling of people from an online survey: [3]

  • 17% of people had been gluten-free for less than a year.
  • 14.6% for two years.
  • 21% for three to five years.
  • 24% had been without gluten for 10 years.
  • And over a fifth, at 22.3%, had been gluten free for over 10 years.

People often self-diagnose health conditions and attempt to change their diet and lifestyle to mitigate those health issues, like swearing off gluten. Other people have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder requiring them to cut out grains. Whatever the reason, here are the top reasons people have chosen to go gluten-free:

  • 48% choose gluten-free because of Celiac Disease.
  • 31% because they’re “intolerant” of gluten.
  • 8.4% because of a different auto-immune disease. (For more on this, please check out the Allergies–Celiac Disease section, below.)
  • Separately, 80% of people want to manage GI pain.
  • 62% are trying to alleviate nausea.
  • 57% to help fatigue.
  • And 40% are trying to mitigate joint pain.

But is a gluten-free diet helping? It mostly breaks down along the reasons listed above. For people who are diagnosed with a condition, 100% say that a gluten-free diet has eliminated their symptoms. Among the rest, only 33% feel better, and 3% say they don’t feel any better at all.

Another source says that nearly a third of all Americans are trying to avoid gluten for health reasons outside of Celiac Disease. Among them:

  • 42% think it will reduce inflammation
  • 37% believe it is “healthier”
  • And 24% believe there are weight-loss benefits. [4]    

As we’ll see later, however, many of these benefits simply do not materialize.

Allergies–Celiac Disease

Among the reasons to go gluten-free is Celiac disease, a developed disease where the gluten molecule causes pain and damage to the gastro-intestinal tract. A staggering 60% of children and 40% of adults with Celiac Disease have no symptoms. [5]

  • Around 1% of the population has Celiac Disease (~30 Million in the US alone, and 7 Million in the UK). [6]
  • Other country populations have been based on actual medical screenings, finding:
  • 1.6% of Italians have Celiac.
  • 1.99% of Finnish.
  • And 1.4% of the whole world; these numbers are also increasing over time. [7]
  • This increase could be as high as 5 fold since 1950. [8]
  • Only 30% of people with Celiac are properly diagnosed, however.
  • That may be why some sources have the US numbers as low as 3 Million people. [9]
  • That same source has up to 70% of Celiac diagnoses occurring among women, and;
  • The average age of diagnosis is 50.
  • Yet another source has the number as high as 1 in 20 (or 5%) of the American population; though this source also cites a study which concluded some people are self-diagnosing.

Because Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disease, there is a high chance that it can develop alongside other diseases. Diagnosing Celiac early can prevent other conditions, and significant Celiac sufferers also have other diseases.

  • Diagnosing Celiac by age 4 lowers the chance of another autoimmune disease to only 10.5%.
  • On the other side, if you diagnose Celiac as late as 20 years old, the chance of another disease is as high as 34%.
  • As many as 69% of Celiac sufferers also have Anemia.
  • Up to 27% have Lymphocytic Colitis.
  • 12% have Peripheral Neuropathy.
  • And 10% of Celiac Sufferers have Type I Diabetes.

In addition to autoimmune diseases, gluten-intolerance/allergy also has a high rate of other self-reported allergies: [10]

  • 28.1% of gluten-free people are also allergic to milk and dairy;
  • 4% are allergic to fish, and;
  • 4% are allergic to peanuts.

Given the preceding numbers, it’s no surprise that there have been other medical outcomes related to Celiac and gluten-intolerance.

  • People who don’t know they have Celiac can face nearly $1,000 more in medical expenses every year.
  • And up to 6% of female infertility may be caused by untreated Celiac Disease. [11]
  • Celiac sufferers are also 6 times more likely to die from non-Hodgkins lymphona;
  • 4 times more at risk for small bowel cancer;
  • 3.1 times more likely to die from liver disease, and;
  • 2.6 times more prone to death by pneumonia. [12]

Outside of diagnosable medical outcomes, there is also something to be said for the quality of life effects that people with Celiac face. For instance:

  • 50% of Celiac sufferers say the burden on their life is high, with an average of 5 weeks of school/work missed per year. [13]
  • Additionally, Celiac sufferers have:
    ➤ A 31% rate of depression;
    ➤ 21% rate of anxiety, and
    ➤ A 7% rate of eating disorders. [14]

Lifestyle

Making a lifestyle change is bound to create some problems. Going back to a previous survey I mentioned above, here is some feedback from active gluten-free people:

  • 25% of people find it more difficult to prepare their own gluten-free food versus making other food.
  • 77% are strict about not mixing gluten-free foods with others.
  • Almost 70% find it at least a “bit difficult” to eat at friends’ houses.
  • 46% have decided that gluten-free is enough of a diet, but;
  • 11% went on to try Weight Watchers, and
  • 10% have gone on to Keto.

For specifics about foods that gluten-free people eat or can’t find, over 80% say they haven’t been able to find everything they want to eat. It’s more difficult given that 60% say they don’t have any close relationships who are also gluten-free.

The effects of going gluten-free will also likely cost you more money. In fact, all gluten-free products in a study were more expensive, on average $1.10 more expensive per unit. [15] In another study, cereals were 205% more expensive, and baked products were 267% more expensive. [16]

Health Benefits

As we can see above, for people with Celiac Disease or any other gluten intolerance, there are dozens of reasons to go gluten-free in their diet. But for the rest of us, the evidence doesn’t support cutting out all gluten.

For instance, in most people it won’t help with any inflammation, and the other loss of nutrients might not be worth whatever other benefits you may see. [17] Also, the additives used to replace the taste/texture of gluten proteins can have harmful effects.

  • Only 5% of all breads made without gluten are fortified with mandatory calcium, iron, niacin, and thiamin. [18]
  • Many gluten-free products have higher fat and sugar levels than traditional foods. [19]
  • Going gluten-free can lead to weight-gain. [20]
  • And cutting out whole grains (which have gluten) means a possible all-mortality risk increase of up to 17%. [21]
  • Among women who eat a gluten-free diet, only 31% get the recommended amount of calcium;
  • 44% get adequate iron, and only 46% get enough fiber. [22]
  • Those numbers in men go to 63% for calcium, 100% for iron, and 88% for fiber.

Market Outlooks

Whatever the reasons people have for making the switch to cut out gluten, it’s having some sizeable effects on retail markets, partly due to the higher cost of these products, as noted above.

  • Overall gluten-free food market is valued at nearly $7 Billion annually. [23]
  • This could climb to $14 Billion by 2030. [24]
  • One study, however, had gluten-free retail sales as high as $15.5 Billion just a few years ago. [25]
  • Of this global market, the US accounts for 36.9% of all sales. [26]
  • Currently, 57% of the gluten-free market is bakery items. [27]
  • Despite the relatively low instance of Celiac Disease, 23% of all consumers buy gluten-free products. [28]

Outside of straightforward retail, the restaurant industry is also taking note of gluten-free trends.

  • 44% of chefs think Gluten free is “hot.”
  • The words “gluten-free” appear on 26% of menus, up 182%. [29]

Odd & Ends

Many people who have Celiac or who are gluten intolerant want to know about alcohol. It turns out that there are a number of options for gluten-free imbibing.

All wines are gluten-free.

All un-flavored liquor is gluten-free–even those distilled from gluten sources!

Gluten-free beers are increasingly becoming available, as well.

Final Thoughts

While there are a number of benefits to lowering our carbohydrate intake, removing all gluten from our diets can be difficult and costly. For people with Celiac or some other intolerance, there simply isn’t a choice. 

For the rest of us, however, like with all diets and supplement routines, it’s probably best to take a modest approach with reducing gluten. Definitely consult a physician before making major changes, and monitor your health as you go.

References

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About the Author

Sam is a passionate health and fitness enthusiast who has been interested in supplements, fitness, and wellness for over 10 years. He is the founder of Great Green Wall - the health and wellness brand and has completed multiple fitness certificates, including personal training and nutrition certifications. Sam has been working as a personal trainer for the past three years and is dedicated to helping his clients achieve their fitness goals and lead healthier lifestyles. He believes that a healthy lifestyle is crucial to a happy and fulfilling life and is committed to sharing his knowledge and passion with others.

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