✿ How many people have Gluten sensitivity?
It's generally accepted that one in 133 people have celiac disease , a genetic condition resulting in intestinal damage whenever they ingest gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.
However, researchers only recently have identified non-celiac gluten sensitivity as a separate, distinct condition, and many in the medical field are waiting for confirmation of those still-new research findings before accepting gluten sensitivity as a possible diagnosis.
Given all that, plus the fact that there's no accepted test for gluten sensitivity, it's impossible to say for sure how many people may actually be gluten-sensitive. However, three prominent researchers in the field — Dr. Alessio Fasano, Dr. Kenneth Fine and Dr. Rodney Ford — recently spoke with me and speculated on what the percentages might be. Just note before you read on that the percentages they mention are based on their own (largely unpublished) research, and don't represent established medical opinion.
Fasano: Gluten Sensitivity May Affect 6% to 7% Overall
Dr. Fasano, director of the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research, published the first study looking at the molecular basis for gluten sensitivity and how it differs from celiac disease. He also participated in the research concluding that celiac disease incidence is one in every 133 people.
According to Dr. Fasano, gluten sensitivity potentially affects far more people than celiac disease. He estimates about 6% to 7% of the U.S. population may be gluten-sensitive, meaning some 20 million people in the United States alone could have the condition.
Symptoms of gluten sensitivity in this population can include digestive problems, headaches, rashes and eczema-like skin symptoms, brain fog and fatigue, Dr. Fasano says. Almost one-third of those he's diagnosed as gluten-sensitive report brain fog and headaches as symptoms , he says.
Drs. Ford, Fine Say Percentage Could Be Far Higher — Up To 50%
Dr. Ford, a pediatrician in Christchurch, New Zealand and author of The Gluten Syndrome, says he believes the percentage of people who are gluten-sensitive actually could be much higher — potentially between 30% and 50%.
"There are so many people who are sick," he says. "At least 10% are gluten-sensitive, and it's probably more like 30%. I was sticking my neck out years ago when I said at least 10% of the population is gluten-sensitive. My medical colleagues were saying gluten sensitivity didn't exist. We'll probably find it's more than 50% when we finally settle on a number."
Dr. Fine, a gastroenterologist who founded and directs the gluten sensitivity testing service Enterolab, agrees that gluten sensitivity probably affects half the population.