Incidence and prevalence of self-reported non-coeliac wheat sensitivity and gluten avoidance in Australia

Michael D. E. Potter*, Michael P. Jones, Marjorie M. Walker, Natasha A. Koloski, Simon Keely, Gerald Holtmann, Nicholas J. Talley

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    21 Citations (Scopus)


    Objectives: To determine the incidence of self-reported non-coeliac wheat sensitivity (SR-NCWS) and factors associated with its onset and resolution; to describe the prevalence of factors associated with gluten avoidance. 

    Design: Longitudinal cohort study; analysis of responses to self-administered validated questionnaires (Digestive Health and Wellbeing surveys, 2015 and 2018). 

    Setting, participants: Subset of an adult population sample randomly selected in 2015 from the electoral rolls for the Newcastle and Gosford regions of New South Wales. 

    Main outcome measures: Prevalence of SR-NCWS (2015, 2018) and incidence and resolution of SR-NCWS, each by demographic and medical factors; prevalence of gluten avoidance and reasons for gluten avoidance (2018). 

    Results: 1322 of 2185 eligible participants completed the 2018 survey (response rate, 60.5%). The prevalence of SR-NCWS was similar in 2015 (13.8%; 95% CI, 12.0–15.8%) and 2018 (13.9%; 95% CI, 12.1–15.9%); 69 of 1301 respondents (5.3%) reported developing new onset (incident) SR-NCWS between 2015 and 2018 (incidence, 1.8% per year). Incident SR-NCWS was significantly associated with a diagnosis of functional dyspepsia, and negatively associated with being male or older. Gluten avoidance was reported in 2018 by 24.2% of respondents (20.5% partial, 3.8% complete avoidance); general health was the most frequent reason for avoidance (168 of 316 avoiders, 53%). All 13 participants with coeliac disease, 56 of 138 with irritable bowel syndrome (41%), and 69 of 237 with functional dyspepsia (29%) avoided dietary gluten. 

    Conclusions: The prevalence of SR-NCWS was similar in 2015 and 2018. Baseline (2015) and incident SR-NCWS (2018) were each associated with functional gastrointestinal disorders. The number of people avoiding dietary gluten exceeds that of people with coeliac disease or SR-NCWS, and general health considerations and abdominal symptoms are the most frequently reported reasons for avoidance.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)126-131
    Number of pages6
    JournalMedical Journal of Australia
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020


    • Diet
    • Gastrointestinal diseases
    • Irritable bowel syndrome


    Dive into the research topics of 'Incidence and prevalence of self-reported non-coeliac wheat sensitivity and gluten avoidance in Australia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this