Skip to content

Research reveals misperceptions of the health benefits of gluten-free foods

Research reveals misperceptions of the health benefits of gluten-free foods

safefood research reveals almost 1 in 7 people consider a gluten-free diet a healthy way to lose weight; yet survey reveals 75% of gluten-free snack foods were high in fat and 69% high in sugar.

Wednesday 29 January, 2020. More than 1 in 6 people in Northern Ireland buy gluten-free foods despite 92% of those surveyed not being diagnosed with coeliac disease or a gluten-related disorder.

A new research report¹ launched today by safefood has revealed a number of misperceptions of the health benefits of gluten-free products with some people cutting gluten from their daily diet in an attempt to improve their health.

The findings revealed that more than 1 in 7 people across Northern Ireland considered a gluten-free diet a healthy way to lose weight, with 17% of people thinking that gluten-free products are lower in fat than foods that contain gluten and a further 17% thinking they contained less amounts of sugar.

The safefood research included an analysis of the nutritional content of 67 gluten-free snack foods, including nut products and savoury snacks, cereal and baked products, and confectionery. The results found that 75% of all gluten-free snack products were high in fat and 69% were high in sugar, with calorie levels similar to a standard chocolate bar.

Introducing the research, Joana Da Silva, Dietitian with safefood said, “For those people who have a diagnosis of coeliac disease or those with a gluten-related disorder, avoiding gluten in their daily diet is an absolute must.”

However, there is no consistent evidence that a gluten-free diet will improve your health if you aren’t sensitive to gluten. Yet, we know from our survey that over 90% of people buying these products do not have a gluten-related disorder or have not been diagnosed with coeliac disease and therefore have no medical reason to avoid gluten in their diet.

“We are concerned that a majority of gluten-free snack products have an unhealthy nutritional profile for everyone, whether or not they have a gluten-related disorder. Many of the gluten-free snacks we surveyed are high in fat and sugar like other treat foods. Snacking on foods such as fruit and vegetables, unsalted plain nuts and gluten-free rice cakes and cheese, are healthier options for us all,”

According to industry estimates², the gluten-free food market in the UK was worth £438 million in 2016, an increase of 36% on the previous year. Many gluten-free food products are promoted by media personalities and sports stars as part of a trend for ‘clean label’, including ‘free-from’, food products.

Ms Da Silva added: “Similar to recent trends we’ve seen with high-protein foods, gluten-free food is big business. In the case of gluten-free snacks, you could end up purchasing snack foods with lots of added fat and sugar which are of no added benefit to your health.”

The report “Cutting out Gluten – the nutrient profile of gluten-free snack foods on the island of Ireland” is available to download at www.safefood.eu

- Ends - 

For further information or to request an interview, please contact

Russell Lever / Vicki Caddy

ASG & Partners

Tel: 028 9080 2000 

Mob: 077 8828 8901 (Russell Lever) / 078 1438 0487 (Vicki Caddy)

Email: russell@asgandpartners.com / vicki@asgandpartners.com 

Or

Dermot Moriarty

safefood

Tel: 00353 1 448 0600

Mob: 00353 86 381 1034

Press@safefood.eu

References

¹ “Cuttting out Gluten – the nutrient profile of gluten-free snack foods on the island of Irelandsafefood January 2020

² “Free from Market: UK Market” [press release] 2016

Editor's notes

  • The safefood research surveyed 67 gluten-free snack foods available for sale on the island of Ireland in October 2018 in major supermarkets. Nutritional research was based on the products’ own label information.
  • A survey of 2,000 people on the island of Ireland was conducted in 2019 by Ipsos MRBI. In Northern Ireland, this was done through a face-to-face omnibus was carried out in Northern Ireland while a telephone omnibus service was carried out in the Republic of Ireland.


Safefood Logo

Sign up for our latest healthy eating and recipe updates.

Safefood logo

The site content is redirecting to the NI version.

Confirm