How did gluten-free come to be?
Humans have been eating foods that contain gluten for thousands of years, but the amount and type of gluten in food products has greatly changed. Although the cultivation of grains for consumption evolved and spread across the globe, it was not until the processing innovations of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century that grains became widely available and affordable. In the 1990s, the USDA created the food pyramid, further solidifying grains into the diets of Americans.
Research suggests the genetic predisposition for celiac disease and gluten intolerance is tied to the emergence of grain as a primary element in a normal diet. It has been suggested that the inability to process gluten is linked to the relatively short evolutionary period over which humans have become so exposed to it. In addition, due to modern methods of mass production, today’s grains are more glutinous than the grains of past generations.
Today, people are eating more grains and, therefore, more gluten than ever. The symptoms of gluten intolerance or gluten sensitivity may vary from person to person, so diagnosing it can be difficult. However, recent developments in testing and a better understanding of these conditions have led to an increased rate of diagnosis. For example, only 3.3 per 100,000 people were diagnosed with celiac disease in the 1990s, but 20.6 per 100,000 were diagnosed in the early 2000s. That’s why an increasing number of people have found it necessary to follow a gluten-free diet.
Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. Trends in the identification and clinical features of celiac disease in a North American community, 1950-2001. 2003 Jan;1(1):19-27.