Instead, I wanted to talk a bit about the latest big-deal study that’s come out about celiac disease.
Headed by researchers from the Mayo Clinic and published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology, the study examined data and blood samples from more than 7,500 individuals. The results aren’t particularly surprising, but they’re still important as we continue to figure out what celiac disease means not just for individuals, but for the larger population.
Of the people in the study, 35 were determined to have celiac disease, or 0.71%. The diagnosis was made by either a double-positive blood test (immunoglobulin A, or IgA, tissue transglutaminase antibodies and IgA endomysial antibodies), or by prior diagnosis by a doctor or healthcare professional and current observance of a gluten-free diet. When data from only non-Hispanic whites was examined, the percentage jumped to 1.01% of the population.
Of these 35 people, 29 had no prior knowledge of the diagnosis. Only six knew that they had celiac disease — however of the entire group, a total of 55 people were following a gluten-free diet.
The study also indicated that 20 of the 35 cases of celiac disease were female – approximately 57% of the total. Of the 55 people on a gluten-free diet, 33 were female (60%).
Translated over to the general American public, this would mean that approximately 1.8 million Americans have celiac disease — and that many do not know it. It would also mean that the majority of people eating a gluten-free diet are doing so for reasons other than clinically diagnosable celiac disease.
The study did not examine non-celiac gluten sensitivities, wheat allergies, or any other conditions that might cause a person to adopt a gluten-free lifestyle. Hopefully a future study will delve more deeply into the reasons why people are on a gluten-free diet, not limited to celiac disease.
In the meantime, one of the biggest questions remains unanswered: we know that gluten causes problems in a lot of people — but why?