Wheat Avoidance: Managing Health Through Self-Prescribed Restrictive Diets

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Golley, Sinead; Mohr, Phil


Conference Material

4th International Symposium for Glutem-free products and beverages, Cork, Ireland, 18-19th October, 2016


For a small but significant proportion of the population such as those diagnosed with Coeliac Disease or wheat allergy the avoidance of foods containing wheat or gluten is essential. However, the growing number and interest in consumer foods and ingredients labelled as ‘gluten-free’ suggests that a lot more people are making the choice to restrict or eliminate gluten or wheat from their diet over and above what would be expected from prevalence rates of allergy or coeliac disease alone. While there is a growing literature on the potential physiological mechanisms underpinning this decision, including non-coeliac gluten sensitivity and the role of FODMAPS, little is known about the psychosocial drivers of this behaviour. Self-report data relating to the avoidance of wheat and dairy products were obtained through a nationwide random sample of the Australian adult population (N = 1184). Of all participants, 10.7% indicated they were currently avoiding products containing wheat (6.1% of all males and 14.5% of all females). Partial wheat avoidance was reported more frequently that full avoidance, with bread, pasta and breakfast cereals the most commonly listed products avoided. Coeliac cases aside, 7% of adult Australians reported avoiding foods containing wheat, predominantly without a formal medical diagnosis, and principally for adverse reactions attributed to those foods. Influences on the decision to avoid wheat amongst this group were substantially non-medical, with complementary medicine, acquaintances, and the media prominent sources. Cross tabulation of the data revealed that 52.9% of symptomatic wheat avoiders also reported avoiding dairy products. The remainder (2.6% of the sample), were avoiding wheat for reasons other than symptom management such as personal taste or preference, having a family member with coeliac disease, or body weight-related factors. The results raise several causes for concern. Extrapolation of the data to the general population suggests that a significant proportion of individuals are managing symptoms through dietary restriction without medical or expert dietary supervision. The risks inherent in the self-prescribed nature of this behaviour include the potential for nutritional imbalance and delays in the identification and treatment of potentially serious underlying medical conditions.

International Association for Cereal Science and Technology

Wheat avoidance Gluten sensitivity Health decision making

Decision Making


Conference Abstract


Golley, Sinead; Mohr, Phil. Wheat Avoidance: Managing Health Through Self-Prescribed Restrictive Diets. In: 4th International Symposium for Glutem-free products and beverages; 18-19th October, 2016; Cork, Ireland. International Association for Cereal Science and Technology; 2016. 1. http://hdl.handle.net/102.100.100/89515?index=1

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