Celiac Disease on the rise in the US

According to several reports Celiac is on the rise in the United States with more people suffering ill effects from the ingestion of gluten (a protein found in wheat, barley & rye). According to various studies, almost five times as many people have Celiac today than back in the 1950s and the rate of Celiac has doubled every 15 years since 1974, now affecting 1 of every 133 people in the US.

Researchers have many theories which could explain the rise of Celiac among US residents, and continue to study the subject.  Certainly there have been improvements in testing and diagnosis for Celiac, but researchers do not believe this is the reason for the increase. According to Dr. Alessio Fasano, Director of the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, the following theories are being considered as an explanation in the rise of Celiac:

Improvements in overall sanitation and hygience practices: People living in industrialized countries are in a sense “too clean”, and as a result  immune systems are not working as hard to fight off diseases.  Additionally, according to the hypothesis of a too clean society, Dr. Fassano suggests peoples’ digestive bacteria is changing within the gut by way of antibiotic abuse, washing hands often, and frequent vaccinations.

An increase in the amount of gluten found in grains: There is much more gluten found in the grains we are consuming now, than were found in grains of 70 to 80 years ago.

Exposure to gluten at an early age: It has been proven, that if a child is consuming grains too early, and  is genetically susceptible to developing Celiac, they are at an increase risk.

Lack of Breastfeeding: Some theories suggest breast-feeding could protect someone from developing Celiac.

Perhaps it is one or a combination of any of the above theories.  Certainly if more people are at risk for developing Celiac, they need to be aware of the symptoms and request testing, especially if a family member has been diagnosed with the condition.  Early diagnosis will avoid developing further complications.


Source: USA Today.com, 2011

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On September 30th, 2011, posted in: CeliacCorner Blogs by

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