Celiac Disease Increases Sharply
Celiac disease, an immune system disorder that causes people to react to gluten in their diet, has increased dramatically in the past half-century, according to new research.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. People with Celiac disease get severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation and other symptoms when they consume gluten. They are also prone to a host of health problems later in life. Originally thought to be a rare childhood syndrome, Celiac disease is now known to be more common. Perhaps as many as 2 million people in the United States may have the disease.
Joseph Murray of the Mayo Clinic and colleagues tested 9,133 blood samples that were gathered at Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming between 1948 and 1954 for the antibody that people with Celiac disease produce in reaction to gluten. They compared the blood tests with those from two recently collected 12,768 sets of blood collected in Olmsted County in Minnesota. One set matched the ages of those from 1948 to 1954 at the time the blood was drawn while the other matched their birth years.
The researchers found that young people today are 4.5 times more likely to have Celiac disease compared to young people in the 1950s, while those whose birth years matched the Warren Air Force Base subjects were about 4 times as likely, the researchers reported in the journal Gastroenterology.
The reason for the increase remains unknown. But the researchers said the most likely explanation probably has something to do with changes in the way wheat and bread are processed. Another possibility is the "hygiene hypothesis" which argues that increase in a variety of allergies and immune system disorders are the result of growing up in environments that are too clean.
To read more about that trend, see this story.
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