The Rise of Celiac Disease Still Stumps Scientists | TIME

by Mandy Oaklander @mandyoaklander

This is your gut on gluten

Two new studies in the New England Journal of Medicine rocked the world of celiac research, both proving that scientists have a ways to go in their understanding of celiac disease, which affects about 1% of the population, whether they know it or not.

POPULAR AMONG SUBSCRIBERSOne Italian study wondered if the age at which gluten is introduced into the diet could affect a person’s likelihood of developing the autoimmune disease—so they kept gluten away from newborns for a year. To the shock of the researchers, delaying exposure to gluten didn’t make a difference in the long run. In some cases it delayed the onset of the disease, but it didn’t stop people from developing the disease, for which there is no cure.

The second study, of almost 1,000 children, introduced small amounts of gluten into the diets of breastfeeding infants to see if that fostered a gluten tolerance later on in those who were genetically predisposed to celiac disease. No such luck for them, either. Though both studies were excellently designed and executed, says Joseph A. Murray, MD, professor of medicine and gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, each was “a spectacular failure.”

What is it about gluten that causes so many people to double over in pain? How could the innocent, ancient act of breaking bread be so problematic for some?

It’s a question researchers are actively trying to answer. “I think of celiac disease now as a public health issue,” Murray says. He’s been researching the bread protein for more than 20 years and has seen the incidence of celiac disease rise dramatically; celiac is more than four times as common as it was 50 years ago, according to hisresearch, which was published in the journal Gastroenterology. Even though awareness and testing methods have dramatically improved, they can’t alone account for all of that increase, he says.

About 1% of Americans have celiac disease, and it’s especially common among Caucasians. There’s a strong genetic component, but it’s still unclear why some people get it and other people don’t. It seems to affect people of all ages, even if they’ve eaten wheat for decades. And you can’t blame an increased consumption of the stuff; USDA data shows we’re not eating more of it.

To read the rest of this article on the Time website, click here.

 Blogger’s Note:

Celiac Disease can be tested for in several ways, however, the only test that is the gold standard is a biopsy while the patient is still consuming gluten foods normally, for at least 12 weeks prior to the test.
There are blood tests to check whether a patient is positive for Celiac, but those produce a high percentage of false positives.
There is a genetic test and it is the gold standard to check alleles for Celiac Disease. The results return the patient’s risk factors for developing Celiac Disease. It doesn’t predict whether the patient will develop it.
One of two labs that originally developed the genetic test for Celiac Disease is Prometheus Laboratories of San Diego, California. The genetic test series they run is their CeliacPro test. Click here to be taken to that page.
Both my daughter and I tested positive for the two highest risk genes. Only my daughter has the disease. She is Celiac-disease free on the Gluten Free diet.
Look for an upcoming blog post on the symptoms and associated GI/intolerance issues related to Celiac Disease.

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