Studies Show Prevalence of Celiac Disease Has Increased

According to a news article on Medscape Today, the incidence of celiac disease (CD) has markedly increased over the past three decades, by even as much as four times, and studies are showing the incidence may actually be higher than 1% of the population, which is the current estimate.

According to Medscape, the Mayo Clinic has confirmed increase in CD incidence, which was reported in Discovery’s Edge, the Mayo Clinic’s research magazine. Joseph Murray, MD, and colleagues analyzed stored blood samples from Air Force recruits in the early 1950s for gluten antibodies. With approximately 1% of today’s population celiac, it was assumed that 1% would be positive; it turns out the number of positive results was far smaller, indicating that CD was “rare” in the early 1950s, according to Dr. Murray.

Dr. Murray and his colleagues compared their results with two more recently collected sets from Olmsted County, Minnesota, with the conclusion that, according to Medscape, “CD is roughly 4 times more common now than in the 1950s.” Dr. Murray says that the increase has affected young and old people and suspects the marked increase is due to a pervasive change “from the environmental perspective.”

As alarming as the statistics are regarding the increasing rate of CD, celiac expert Dr. Ludvigsson, MD, of the Karolinska Institute and Orebro University Hospital in Sweden, tells Medscape that the methods of diagnosing celiac disease are improving. For those who test positive for the disease, the only method of treatment is a gluten-free diet, a simple and effective treatment, although it can require some challenging lifestyle adjustments. In the future, we may see other treatments such as gluten-digesting enzymes or even the genetic modification of the structure of gluten in wheat so that it will not generate an autoimmune reaction in celiac patients.

Tina Turbin



Medscape Today: Celiac Disease Diagnosis Up 4-Fold Worldwide

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