Celiac Disease in Iran More Common Than Previously Thought

A few weeks ago Caty wrote about celiac disease in India, where rates of gluten intolerance are historically low but seemingly on the rise.

Today, we take another trip to a lesser-traveled corner of the gluten-free world: Iran.

Serova's mosaic of food in Tehran...looks tasty

A new study, completed in tandem by researchers in Iran and the UK, sought to answer questions about the prevalence of celiac disease in Iran. Up until now, it’s been thought that celiac disease was fairly rare there – however this in not the case.

Turns out, Iran’s historically low rate of celiac disease is due less to any sort of genetic resistance than to low awareness. By looking at genetic markers for celiac disease – the better to catch subclinical or otherwise “silent” cases – the researchers found that rates in Iran are much like rates in Europe.

Specifically, the estimate is that 1 in every 166 Iranians may have celiac disease, although that ratio might vary a bit from region to region. By comparison, the ratio in Sweden is 1:190, Italy is 1:106, and Japan is 1:20,000.

And what is life like for Iran’s gluten-free? The study merely says that gluten-free food is rarely available and – when available – considerably more expensive than alternatives. Given that wheat is a major part of the country’s diet, you can imagine that it’s not an easy place to be a celiac.

I took an extra snoop through the Internet to see what I could find.

Iran does have a website focused on celiac awareness, and if I were traveling to Iran the first thing I’d do is send them a note. Everything except the forum is in English, but unfortunately there isn’t much on where to go or what to eat.

And otherwise? Slim pickings. The good news is that there are a number of classic Iranian dishes based on rice. There are also plenty of kabobs, stews and salads in the litany that would be safe if they were prepared somewhere free of cross-contamination. You can find a number of them here, although not all are gluten-free.

If you’d like more information, visit celiac.com for a review of the study and as well as a linked PDF.

Are there Iranian dishes that you enjoy? Have you ever traveled to Iran on a gluten-free diet?

One thought on “Celiac Disease in Iran More Common Than Previously Thought”

  1. Interesting. I know the common ratio here in America is 1 in every 133 has celiac, but I was surprised to see that Italy has a higher number. I guess I just always though that Italians all had such pasta-rich histories that celiac wouldn’t be in their genes. I’m thinking our ratio here in America is going to change soon, patients are being properly diagnosed more and more as awareness has been raised.

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