New safefood research reveals gluten-free snack foods not as healthy as people think
1 in 4 surveyed thought that gluten-free products were lower in fat. 1 in 5 thought gluten-free products were lower in sugar.
- 1 in 4 surveyed thought that gluten-free products were lower in fat.
- 1 in 5 thought gluten-free products were lower in sugar
- A snapshot nutrition survey reveals 75% of gluten-free snack foods were high in fat and 69% high in sugar
- More than 1 in 5 consider a gluten-free diet to be a healthy way to lose weight.
A new research report¹ launched today by safefood found that while more than 1 in 5 people (23%) surveyed buy gluten-free foods on a regular basis, 90% of those people did not have a gluten-related disorder or had not been medically diagnosed with coeliac disease. Among those people surveyed, there was a misperception of the health benefits of gluten-free products; more than 1 in 5 people (23%) thought that gluten-free produces were lower in fat, 21% thought they were lower in sugar and 19% considered a gluten-free diet was a healthy way to lose weight.
The safefood research also included a snapshot survey that looked at the nutritional content of 67 gluten-free snack foods. These snack foods included nut products and savoury snacks, cereal and baked products, and confectionery. Of all the gluten-free snack products surveyed, 75% were high in fat and 69% were high in sugar with calorie levels similar to a standard chocolate bar.
Introducing the research, Dr Catherine Conlon, Director of Human Health & Nutrition, 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, we would have a concern that some of these snack foods have an unhealthy nutritional profile for everyone, whether or not they have a gluten-related disorder. Snacking on foods such as fruit and vegetables, unsalted plain nuts and gluten-free rice cakes and cheese, are healthier options for us all.
“We know from our survey that 92% 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. There is no consistent evidence that a gluten-free diet will improve your health if you aren’t sensitive to gluten. Many of the gluten-free snacks we surveyed are high in fat and sugar like other treat foods.”
According to industry estimates², the gluten-free food market in Ireland was worth €66 million in 2017, an increase of 33% on the previous year. Many gluten-free foods products are promoted by media personalities and sports stars as part of a trend for “clean label”, including “free-from”, food products..
“Similar to recent trends we’ve seen with high-protein foods, gluten-free food is big business with an audience of people willing to purchase these products”, added Dr Conlon. “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.
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¹ “Cuttting out Gluten – the nutrient profile of gluten-free snack foods on the island of Ireland” safefood January 2020
² “One in five Irish people are regular gluten free shoppers” Bord Bia [press release] 2017
3 “Free from Market: UK Market” [press release] 2016
- The safefood research surveyed 67 high-protein snack foods available for sale on the island of Ireland in October 2018 in major supermarkets, discounters and & convenience retailers. Nutritional research was based on the products’ own label information.
- A survey of 2,000 consumers on the island of Ireland was conducted in 2019 by Ipsos MRBI. In the Republic of Ireland, this was done through Ipsos MRBI’s telephone omnibus service.