A new research report launched this week by safefood found that while more than 1 in 5 people (23%) surveyed buy gluten-free foods, 92% of those people did not have a gluten-related disorder or had not been medically diagnosed with coeliac disease.

Among those surveyed, there was a misperception of the health benefits of gluten-free products; more than 1 in 5 people (23%) thought that gluten-free products 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.

‘Big business’

Dr Catherine Conlon, Director of Human Health & Nutrition, safefood commented: “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