Purpose: The treatment of celiac disease is a strict gluten-free diet for life. This diet is assumed to be more expensive, although no studies confirm this assumption. In the current study, the prices of gluten-free foods and regular (gluten-containing) foods were compared to determine if and to what extent gluten-free products are more expensive.
Methods: Prices were compared for all food products labelled "gluten-free" and comparable gluten-containing food items in the same group available at two large-chain general grocery stores. The unit cost of each food, calculated as the price in dollars per 100 grams of each product, was calculated for purposes of comparison.
Results: All 56 gluten-free products were more expensive than regular products. The mean (+/- standard deviation) unit price for gluten-free products was $1.71 (+/- 0.93) compared with $0.61 (+/- 0.38) for regular products (p<0.0001). On average, gluten-free products were 242% more expensive than regular products (+/- 212; range, 5% to 1,000%).
Conclusions: All the commercially available products labelled gluten-free were significantly more expensive than comparable products. This information will be useful to dietitians who counsel individuals and families with celiac disease, and to celiac advocacy groups for lobbying the government about financial compensation.