People With Gluten Sensitivity More Skeptical

A survey of people who follow a gluten-free diet found those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) are more skeptical about medicine and food safety than those with celiac. A notable 41.3 percent of people with NCGS doubt vaccines are safe for people with celiac, compared to 26.4 percent of celiac patients. Significantly more people with NCGS had refused a flu shot when offered one.

The Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University emailed the questionnaire to adults on a voluntary email list and received a 27 percent response. The study included 1,291 people with biopsy-proven celiac and 217 classified as having NCGS, either self-reported or unsure of their diagnosis.

By the numbers

A majority of those with NCGS reported adverse symptoms after trying gluten-free Cheerios: 53 percent compared to 37 percent of celiac patients. They were significantly more likely to avoid genetically modified foods (47 percent), eat only organic products (29 percent), believe a gluten-free diet improves energy and concentration (40 percent), and believe gluten is unhealthy for everyone (31 percent).

This study of patients at a major referral center may not reflect the general U.S. population. Respondents with NCGS had a significantly higher level of education, 93 percent having completed a college degree compared to 82 percent of celiac patients. However, the authors believe these findings show a meaningful difference in attitudes among people who avoid eating gluten. A lack of clear information about food safety may reinforce consumer beliefs.


Rabinowitz LG, Zylberberg HM, Levinovitz A, Stockwell MS, Green PHR and Lebwohl B, “Skepticism regarding vaccine and gluten-free food safety among patients with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity,” Digestive Diseases and Sciences, 2017 Dec 14, doi:10.1007/s10620-017-4879-1 [Epub ahead of print].

Gluten sensitivity or intolerance is a condition that causes a person to react after ingesting gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Symptoms of gluten sensitivity are close to those associated with celiac, so it’s important to get the correct diagnosis. Check out our Gluten Sensitivity section for more information.

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