Against the Grain: The Rise of Gluten-Free Bakeries in Boston
Gluten has become enemy number oneâ€”and local bakeries are reaping the rewards.
Photo by David Arky
Eating gluten-free is a way of life for the 3 million Americans living with celiac disease. For these people, ingesting glutenâ€”found in wheat, barley, rye, and some oatsâ€”causes a reaction that damages the lining of the small intestine. The condition also prevents the absorption of important nutrients from food, says Melinda Dennis, the nutrition coordinator at Beth Israel Deaconessâ€™s Celiac Center, and the coauthor of Real Life with Celiac Disease. â€śThere has been an increase in people that are being diagnosed with celiac,â€ť she says, â€śyet itâ€™s still widely unrecognized and under-diagnosed.â€ť
Medical professionals speculate that the steady rise in the number of cases has both genetic and environmental causes, but they canâ€™t say for certain whatâ€™s going on. Celiac can show up at any age, and the symptoms vary widely, says Vijay Yajnik, an attending physician at the Crohnâ€™s and Colitis Center at Massachusetts General Hospital. â€śOne person may have celiac,â€ť Yajnik says, and â€śone might just have gluten sensitivity. Will it ever turn into celiac? We donâ€™t know.â€ť
Not everyone is skipping store-bought bread out of necessity, though. Celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Victoria Beckham are said to subscribe to a wheat-free diet to stay trim. (Not so fast, says Yajnik: â€śItâ€™s a myth that you will lose weight. There is no defined medical reason to go gluten-free other than celiac disease.â€ť)
But whether sensitivity or trendiness is driving the demand for gluten-free alternatives, one thing is for sure: Itâ€™s been a boon to area bakeries. Dawn Clancy, of Curtis Street Bakers, went from selling gluten-free goods in Davis Square to supplying Tufts University. Vita Cohen, of Arlingtonâ€™s Celia Cakes, left a law career to decorate organic, gluten-free cakes, and sheâ€™s been so inundated with orders that she now requires a $500 minimum purchase.
â€śSales have skyrocketed. Itâ€™s explosive,â€ť Christine Penney says of business at her bakery, Something Sweet Without Wheat. Sheâ€™s expanding the original Woburn location and recently opened an Arlington outpost. â€śWe started three years ago with just me and my sister,â€ť Penney says. â€śNow we have 12 employees and supply Northeastern University.â€ť
Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/health/blog/2013/01/29/gluten-free-diet-trend-boston-bakeries/