Is it just another hipster trend that makes you more special or does it actually have any benefit? The misconceptions and prejudice about the gluten-free diet are more widespread than one might think. Perhaps more common in North America, the gluten free diet is still uncommon and unknown to most people in Asia. In the US for example one in 33 citizens is actually affected by the celiac disease. However, statistics suggest that a much larger number of gluten intolerant people remain undiscovered.
Why Become Gluten Free
Most people following a gluten-free diet do it due to their body’s intolerance towards gluten, which is a protein compound found in wheat, such as in barley and rye. While some don’t have a choice, others are actively following a gluten free diet for health benefits.
A Multi-Billion Dollar Gluten-Free Market
Even if you are not gluten intolerant, nor voluntarily follow the diet, the gluten free phenomenon is growing for several reasons. Statistics and projections suggest that at least 1% of all adults in the world has a gluten-free intolerance. Another reason is the growing health-conscious community in North America, Europe as well as in Asia. Packaged Facts expects the gluten-free market to grow to $6.6 billion by 2017. In 2012 Time Magazine even listen gluten-free as one of the top global health trends. As it is one of the fastest growing food markets the supply is bound to increase exponentially. As health becomes increasingly more important in Singapore as well, gluten-free is set to arrive on our shores too.
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The gluten free diet has been debated and is under attack ever since its potential was first capitalised. Many food lobbyists claim that there is actually no proven health benefit resulting from a gluten free diet. However, 65% gluten free followers that are not suffering from an intolerance state health as their main reason for converting.
On a basic level there are clear benefits. Eliminating wheat products from one’s diet, one is inclined to feel less inflated. Other research suggests that a gluten free diet can have positive effects on the behaviour of especially children and people suffering from autism. No matter whether one believes in the health benefits or not, the increased popularity has already an effect on the food industry. In the last five years alone, the variety of gluten-free products has doubled worldwide.
Gluten Free No Longer A Hassle
While in Singapore the demand for gluten free products is still relatively small, other countries, such as Australia and Brazil, are pioneers in the way they make gluten-free products accessible. Most nation-wide supermarkets not only offer gluten-free products, but also label products visibly and promote them too. Even cafes and restaurants offer their customers alternatives for their diets. The times when following a gluten-free diet was considered exotic are over – at least in same parts of the world. Although one still becomes quickly a social outcast in Singapore, the change seems inevitable. As Singapore’s cuisine variety becomes increasingly international, the gluten-free products and market will also sweep over this island. However, there is nothing to be afraid of, as the inclusion of gluten-free products has never meant a reduction of other goods and foods.