Gluten-free is a relatively well-known way of eating. There are a variety of interesting statistics, trends, and facts about this diet.
Below you can find a short list of some of the most popular findings about gluten-free-related subjects and after that even more interesting statistics, trends, and facts and where these come from.
Keep in mind that the figures below are often estimations from smaller studies, surveys, and search engines. These things generally come with a lot of biases, suboptimal sample selection, and measurement errors. In reality, the numbers will likely vary for the overall population, sometimes by a lot.
Quick overview of popular gluten-free statistics
To start you can find a few of the most popular gluten-free statistics, facts, trends, and estimations implied from the investigated data in a quick overview.
- Surveys suggest about 3% – 4% of Americans and UK citizens are following a gluten-free diet.
- About 0.7% – 1.4% of people have celiac disease. This condition is about 50% more common in women.
- Celiac disease is about twice as common in Europe and Oceania as in South Ameria.
- Compared to 2008, the number of searches of the term “gluten free” was up 273.1% in 2014.
- The worldwide gluten-free market size was estimated to be about 5.6 billion USD in 2020. About 1.77 billion USD is from the U.S. gluten-free market.
- Some examples of naturally gluten-free “grains” are rice, amaranth, quinoa, oats, corn, etc. Check the label to make sure these foods did not come into contact with gluten.
- In one survey 37% of the people who ate gluten-free products did so because they thought it was healthier. Only 11% did so because a healthcare provider recommended this.
- One study from 2015 calculated that in Austria gluten-free bread and bakery products were on average 267% more expensive than the gluten-containing versions. For cereals this was on average 205% more expensive.
In the rest of this article you can find more interesting statistics about this way of eating and where these numbers come from.
1. Number of people on a gluten-free diet
Finding out the exact number of individuals that follow a gluten-free diet is challenging but there are some statistics available to get a better idea.
The 2021 Food & Health Survey from the International Food Information Council with 1014 Americans ages 18 to 80 also asked the participants what diets they had followed in the last year. 4% of these individuals said they had followed a gluten-free diet (1).
A different survey from 2015 in the UK with 1004 participants measured that 3.7% of their participants said they were following a gluten-free diet (2).
Another survey from the UK in 2014 asked 1002 adults a variety of questions about gluten-free diets. 3.7% of the participants said they were following a gluten-free diet (3).
Lastly, one study looked at the statistics from the 2009 to 2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys.
They concluded that in 2014% about 3.4% of the US general population was either diagnosed with celiac disease or avoiding gluten without celiac disease (4).
In short, these statistics imply that around 3% – 4% of the US and UK participants were following a gluten-free diet.
2. Percentage of people who definitely want to avoid gluten
Some people just follow a gluten-free diet for possible health benefits. There are also people that follow a gluten-free diet out of necessity.
This last category is mostly made up of individuals with celiac disease and gluten sensitivities.
One meta-analysis, a study that gathers the data from other studies, included 96 articles with in total 275,818 individuals.
The authors estimate that the global prevalence of celiac disease is about 1.4% based on serologic test results. Based on biopsy results they estimate a prevalence of 0.7% (5).
From these biopsy results, they also concluded more specific estimation rates per region. For Europe and Oceania this was 0.8%, Asia 0.6%, Africa and North America 0.5%, and South America 4%.
Additionally, celiac disease seems to be more common in females than males. The study estimates 50% more common (0.6% vs 0.4%).
There is also a condition called non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Estimations for the prevalence of this condition vary widely. One meta-analysis suggests between 0.5% – 13% (6).
A challenging part of finding out how common this condition is, is that gluten placebos tend to trigger symptoms often (7).
3. Gluten-free diet search trends
Gluten-free diets are a diet that really gained popularity around 2011-2013. A question is if this also motivates more people to search for gluten-free-related search terms that indicate that people try this diet out more.
Google Trends is a tool that shows you how much interest in certain search terms evolves over time for the given region and time. A value of 100 is the peak popularity for the term. A value of 50 means that the term is half as popular.
We added up the months to get “searches” (relative differences) per year, compared a few gluten-free related search terms worldwide, and found some of the following trends:
- Searches for the term “gluten free” started really picking up in 2008.
- Compared to 2008, the number of searches of the term “gluten free” was up 273.1% in 2014.
- The number of worldwide searches of the term “gluten free bread” was highest in 2020, more specifically in the month of May. In 2021, the number of searches for this term was only 70.1% of the 2020 total.
Part of these statistics is due to other reasons like the popularity of Google and their tracking.
Even so, these numbers are clearly a lot more steady throughout the years and months compared to more of a weight loss diet like the keto diet.
This first graph shows the relative interest in search terms like “gluten free bread”, “gluten free foods”, “gluten free beer”, “gluten free pizza”, and “gluten free desserts”.
4. Possible gluten-free nutrient deficiencies or insufficiencies
A gluten-free diet can offer many people a lot of benefits. However, you do need to keep in mind that this can also mean that you remove foods with nice amounts of nutrients from your diet.
Some of the nutrients you may have to focus more on when going on a gluten-free diet include certain B vitamins, iron, magnesium, and a few other vitamins and minerals to smaller extents (8).
Additionally, if whole grains used to be your main source of fiber, you want to pay attention to consuming enough of this nutrient.
That being said, if you pay some extra attention, these nutrients are relatively easy to get from other foods too. For example, for B vitamins and iron you can eat more fish, beef, eggs, leafy greens, legumes, etc.
There are definitely more challenging diets when it comes to getting all the essential nutrients in the desired quantities.
5. Gluten-free market size
While not always necessary, there are a variety of gluten-free products on the market to help you. Examples include gluten-free bread, pizza, beer, flour, snacks, pasta, etc.
One source estimates that the worldwide gluten-free market size was 5.6 billion USD in 2020. This same source estimates that the gluten-free U.S. market size was 1.77 billion USD in 2020 (9).
6. There are “grains” that are naturally gluten-free
Most people think about a gluten-free diet as a way of eating that does not allow any grains. And while certain popular grains are indeed the main sources of gluten, there are also a few “grains” that are gluten-free.
These are not always grains in the botanical sense of the word but are often used the same when it comes to cooking and eating. Some examples include:
Before you give these gluten-free alternatives a try make sure you check the label for any mentions of gluten. Some of these options are naturally gluten-free but come in contact with gluten.
This is especially the case for individuals who are really sensitive to gluten.
7. Why people go gluten-free
Two people can follow the same gluten-free diet but they can do this for different reasons. The data about this subject is not the most precise but there are a few interesting statistics nonetheless.
One poll from 2017 asked 1,000 U.S. and Candian individuals a few questions about gluten-free diets.
42% said they bought gluten-free products to improve health, 37% believed gluten-free products were healthier, 35% wanted fewer artificial ingredients, 31% sought more natural ingredients, 24% wanted to lose weight, and 24% preferred not to eat wheat/grains (10).
Mintel reports that in their 2015 survey, 37% of consumers said they were eating gluten free because they believed it was better for their overall health (11).
Additionally, 19% ate gluten-free to lose weight, 16% said that gluten was bad for their health, and 11% ate gluten-free because this was recommended by a healthcare professional.
So in short, there are many people that follow a gluten-free diet because they think it is healthier. Not necessarily because they have any confirmed conditions that require them to follow this way of eating.
8. Gluten-free diet popularity vs other diets
While required for certain types of people, it is clear that plenty of individuals go gluten-free for other reasons.
The 2021 Food & Health Survey from the International Food Information Council with 1014 Americans ages 18 to 80 asked the participants about what types of diets they had followed in the last year. Some of the most popular diets included (1):
- 10% tried calorie counting
- 9% clean eating,
- 8% intermittent fasting
- 6% low-carb diets
- 5% ketogenic or high-fat diet
- 5% flexitarian diets
- 5% plant-based diets
- 5% carb-cycling
- 4% Mediterranean diets
- 4% gluten-free diets
Below you can find a worldwide search volume comparison from 2004-2021 between “gluten free”, “keto diet”, “calorie counting”, “vegetarian”, and “intermittent fasting”.
Surprisingly the term “gluten free” has been searched even more than these other popular ways of eating since around 2013. Even if you keep in mind that searching for and following diets are different things these are still considerable differences.
In short, the survey suggest not that many people follow a gluten-free diet compared to other diets. The search volume comparison suggests there is at least a good amount of interest in the gluten-free way of eating.
9. Cost gluten-free options vs regular foods
There are a wide variety of gluten-free foods specifically made to replace foods that traditionally do contain this type of nutrient. One 2015 study from Austria set out to take a look at the prices and nutritional quality of these foods.
They calculated that on average the gluten-free bread and bakery products were on average 267% more expensive. Additionally, the cereals were on average 205% more expensive (12).
Besides that, they found that the protein contents of gluten-free products were 2x lower across 57% of all food categories.
It would be interesting to see if these conclusions still hold up and if this is the same as in other countries. For now, this is one of the best sources of statistics.
If you are on a budget but still want to do a gluten-free diet you can also consider some of the other nutrient-dense food categories that are naturally gluten-free and cheaper.
10. Day to celebrate gluten-free diet
While many people on the gluten-free diet will want to follow it for life, there is a day on which gluten-free diets get extra attention. January 13th is generally considered National Gluten-Free Day.
You can use this day to support your friends and family who eat gluten-free, try out some gluten-free recipes, or celebrate in any other way.
11. Restaurant labels are not always completely accurate
With the popularity of gluten-free diets, there are many restaurants that offer gluten-free options.
There are portable measurement devices to estimate how much gluten is in the food in front of you. Of course, these are not perfect but they do give you somewhat of an idea.
One publication gathered the data from users who agreed to share their measurements to estimate how well restaurants actually give gluten-free food when they label it like this.
In total, they used the data from 5,624 tests collected by 804 users. The measurement devices detected gluten in 32% of the gluten-free-labeled foods (13).
More specifically, 27.2% at breakfast and 34% at dinner. Additionally, “gluten-free” pizza (53.2%) and pasta (50.8%) were the most likely to test positive on the measurement devices.
While this publication is obviously not perfect, it does indicate that if it is really important that you don’t eat gluten, you want to pay extra attention when dining out.
12. Number of books about gluten
Another interesting statistic about the gluten-free diet is the number of books on the subject. To investigate this we went to one of the biggest bookstores in the world, the website Amazon.
This website offers an advanced search option where you can filter the search results among other things by release date.
We looked at how many book search results there were with the keyword “gluten” with a release date before a variety of years. A downside is that for big numbers the numbers get rounded down.
Additionally, there are inevitably many other reasons why this data is not perfect. Even so, it still offers an interesting look at how much the number of books about gluten has gone up.
There were only 336 book results with a publish date before 2000. This went up to 876 gluten book results with publish date before 2010.
After that, things start really taking off up to more than ten thousand gluten book results with a publish date before 2021.
Below you can find the results we found in a graph and a screenshot of where we got these numbers.