The gluten-free foods market is expected to hit $4.2 billion this year, according to a new report by market research publisher Packaged Facts.
And at the rate it's going, by 2017, gluten-free sales could grow to more than $6.6 billion, the report said.
The report also shows that more people are buying gluten-free products, up to 18 percent in August 2012, compared with 15 percent in October 2010.
"The conviction that gluten-free products are generally healthier is the top motivation for purchase of these products," David Sprinkle, research director at Packaged Facts, said in a statement.
Specifically, more diagnoses and awareness of people with celiac disease and gluten intolerance, family support of these people by also eating gluten-free, and the availability of gluten-free foods, are all factors in the increasing market, according to the report. Celiac disease is a condition where the immune system is triggered in response to foods that contain gluten.
Diagnoses of celiac disease are increasing in the U.S., with the number of people being diagnosed in 2011 being five times higher than those diagnosed in the '50s, USA Today reported. Now, one in every 133 people in the U.S. is estimated to have the condition.
Some possible explanations for the increase in celiac disease include increased sanitation in the modern world -- thereby impacting the development of humans' immune systems -- as well as grains being more gluten-rich in today's day and age, according to USA Today.
However, a recent review of studies in the American Journal of Gastroenterology showed that many people who don't have celiac disease are still abiding by gluten-free diets. That review showed that 1.8 million people in the U.S. have celiac disease, although 1.4 million don't know it. But 1.6 million people still eat gluten-free, the Mayo Clinic reported.
“There are a lot of people on a gluten-free diet, and it's not clear what the medical need for that is," study researcher Dr. Joseph Murray, who is a Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist, said in a statement. "It is important if someone thinks they might have celiac disease that they be tested first before they go on the diet.”
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