New research indicates the high cost and unavailability of gluten-free foods

  • Monday, October 15, 2018

New research by Dr Yvonne Jeanes, Principal Lecturer in Clinical Nutrition, with Dr Hanci, Paediatrician from the NHS, shows that, despite its increasing popularity, gluten-free bread remains substantially more expensive than normal bread.

Image - New research indicates the high cost and unavailability of gluten-free foods

A gluten-free diet is the only treatment for coeliac disease. It is a ‘postcode lottery’ as to whether adults and children with coeliac disease may obtain gluten-free bread on the NHS.  For someone with coeliac disease, eating gluten causes damage to the intestine, and can cause anaemia, osteoporosis, small bowel cancer and neurological conditions.

Dr Jeanes’ research study into gluten-free (GF) foods, recently published in Frontline Gastroenterology, compared GF foods from different retailers, considering both the number of varieties on offer and price. The study revealed that GF breads remain, on average, around 400% more expensive than normal bread.

Additional findings include that the vast majority (82%) of GF foods are more expensive online than when purchased in supermarkets. This, along with the lack of GF foods in budget supermarkets and convenience stores, has a disproportionate impact on disabled people and the elderly, who are affected by high prices and price fluctuations. Treating coeliac disease costs the individual considerably different amounts depending on where they live.

Dr Jeanes said ‘This research clearly demonstrates the importance of making GF food available on prescription to people with coeliac disease. Despite the increasing popularity of GF foods as a lifestyle choice, the price of GF food has not fallen, and there has not been an associated increase in general availability or accessibility of GF foods for people on lower incomes’.

To read the full article entitled Are gluten-free food staples accessible to all patients with coeliac disease? please click here.

The study builds on Dr Jeanes’ previous work, which established that patients with coeliac disease are more likely to stick to a GF diet – the only treatment for coeliac disease – if GF foods are made available on prescription. However, many Clinical Commissioning Groups no longer prescribe GF foods.

The Department of Life Sciences offers an outstanding undergraduate degree in Nutrition and Health and postgraduate degrees in Clinical Nutrition and Nutrition and Metabolic Disorders (MRes).