Background Coeliac disease is a common, autoimmune disorder, for which the only treatment is lifelong adherence to a gluten-free diet. This study evaluates the economic burden of adhering to a gluten-free diet.
Methods A market basket of products identified by name brand, weight or package size for both regular wheat-based products and gluten-free counterparts was developed. The differences in price between purchase venues, both type of store (general grocery store, an upscale grocery store and a health food store and four internet-based grocery sites) and region was also analysed.
Results Availability of gluten-free products varied between the different venues, regular grocery stores carried 36%, while upscale markets carried 41%, and health food stores 94%, compared with 100% availability on the internet. Overall, every gluten-free product was more expensive than their wheat-based counterpart (P ≤ 0.05). Bread and pasta was twice as expensive as their wheat-based counterparts. Cost was affected more by shopping venue than geographic location.
Conclusions This study demonstrated that gluten-free foods have poor availability and are more expensive than their gluten-containing counterparts. The impact of these findings on dietary compliance and the quality of life needs to be addressed.