Who Values Gluten-Free? Dietary Intake, Behaviors, and Sociodemographic Characteristics of Young Adults Who Value Gluten-Free Food



      Over the past decade, consumer demand for gluten-free products has increased, but little is known about the public health impact of and factors correlated with valuing gluten-free food.


      Describe the sociodemographic and behavioral characteristics of young adults valuing gluten-free as an important food attribute, and compare their dietary intake with other young adults.


      Cross-sectional analysis of survey data collected in 2015 to 2016 as part of the fourth wave of the Project EAT (Eating and Activity in Teens and Young Adults) cohort study.


      Population-based sample of 1,819 young adults (25 to 36 years) (57% women, 69% white), initially recruited in Minneapolis-St Paul, MN, public middle and senior high schools.


      Valuing gluten-free food, weight goals and weight control behaviors, food production values, eating behaviors, physical activity, and dietary intake.

      Statistical analyses performed

      Logistic regression models were used to investigate associations with potential correlates of valuing gluten-free food. For dietary intake, adjusted mean estimates were calculated for those who did and those who did not value gluten-free foods.


      Approximately 13% of young adults valued gluten-free food, a characteristic most strongly related to valuing food production practices (eg, organic, locally grown); factors such as Nutrition Facts use and having a weight goal were also related to gluten-free food values. Valuing gluten-free food was related to engagement in both healthy behaviors (eg, eating breakfast daily, eating more fruits and vegetables) and unhealthy behaviors (eg, using diet pills to control weight).

      Conclusions and relevance

      Young adults valuing gluten-free food generally engaged in healthier behaviors and had better dietary intake; of concern, they were also more likely to engage in unhealthy weight control behaviors. Valuing gluten-free food may be part of a cluster of behaviors representing an interest in making healthier food choices but may also be a marker for unhealthy weight preoccupation and behaviors.


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      M. J. Christoph is a postdoctoral fellow, Department of Pediatrics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.


      N. Larson is a senior research associate, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.


      D. Neumark-Sztainer is professor and division head, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.


      K. C. Hootman is director of the Nutrition Research Core, Clinical and Translational Science Center, Weill Cornell Medicine, New York, NY.


      J. M. Miller is a postdoctoral fellow, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.