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    Americans Divided on Gluten: Harris Poll

    A majority think avoidance is medically unnecessary, but many do it anyway

    Gluten-free items may be hot, but a recent online Harris Poll of 2,205 U.S. adults shows that Americans have decidedly mixed feelings about the trend.

    According to the poll, which was conducted in October, majority of believe gluten avoidance isn't medically necessary, with nearly two-thirds (64 percent) agreeing that most gluten avoiders don't have to do so. There may be some basis for this belief, as only 3 percent of Americans report their household includes someone who's been diagnosed with a gluten sensitivity/intolerance, and just 1 percent of households have someone diagnosed with celiac disease. However, 26 percent say their household avoids/limits gluten in some capacity.

    Unsurprisingly, those with someone in their household who avoids/limits gluten are more likely to have a person with a diagnosed gluten sensitivity or intolerance in the house, compared with those who don't avoid gluten (11 percent versus less than 1 percent). However, 39 percent of Americans whose households avoid/limit gluten don't have anyone in the house with gluten sensitivity or intolerance.

    "Undiagnosed" sensitivities are a little more common, with 5 percent of households having someone who suspects they suffer from a sensitivity or intolerance. Another 13 percent believe that they or someone else in their household feel better when they avoid gluten, but don't think they have an intolerance.

    One-third (67 percent) of Americans are glad there are more gluten-free products available today than in the past, but almost nine in 10 (87 percent) think food manufacturers are taking advantage of the demand for gluten-free to overcharge consumers.

    When it comes to the holidays, almost early 39 million Americans –- 16 percent of adults 18 and older -- expect to see gluten-free substitutions at Thanksgiving. Naturally enough, those in households who avoid/limit gluten are more likely to anticipate such substitutes than those in households who don't (42 percent versus 7 percent).

    Begun in 1963, The Harris Poll, conducted by Rochester, N.Y.-based Harris Interactive, is one of the longest-running surveys measuring public opinion in the United States.

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