Over the past few decades, millions of people around the world have distanced themselves from gluten, eliminating gluten sources from their diets, even if their doctors haven’t recommended that they do so.
Gluten-free diets has a long history of treating people with celiac disease, a digestive disorder in which your body is abnormally sensitive to gluten, a protein component of wheat, rye, barley and crossbreeds of those grains.
Now, going gluten-free has become something of a nationwide obsession in the United States and is increasing in popularity more globally.
“It is now the most popular diet in Hollywood,” said Dr. Alessio Fasano, director of the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital, who has led world-renowned research on gluten.
Nonetheless, “this is a medical intervention,” he said. “For those who just brush it off that this is a fad and a fashion lifestyle, be considerate of the people that survive on this diet. For people with celiac disease, the gluten-free diet is like insulin for diabetics.”
There is little research to support the idea that a gluten-free diet can help improve health problems aside from celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, according to the US National Library of Medicine.
So how did gluten-free eating shift from a rare treatment approach to a trendy way of living? Here’s a look at the rise and fall of gluten and how the gluten-free diet has shaped public health over the years.