Most with celiac disease unaware of it, others go gluten-free without diagnosis

July 31, 2012

Roughly 1.8 million Americans have celiac disease, but around 1.4 million of them are unaware that they have it, a Mayo Clinic-led analysis of the condition's prevalence has found. Meanwhile, 1.6 million people in the United States are on a gluten-free diet even though they haven't been diagnosed with celiac disease, according to the study published Tuesday in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.

Researchers have estimated the rate of diagnosed and undiagnosed at similar levels prior to this study, but this is the most definitive study on the issue. "This provides proof that this disease is common in the United States," says co-author Joseph Murray, M.D., a Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist. "If you detect one person for every five or six (who have it), we aren't doing a very good job detecting celiac disease."

Celiac disease is a brought on when genetically susceptible people eat wheat, rye and barley. A gluten-free diet, which excludes the protein gluten, is used to treat celiac disease. Roughly 80 percent of the people on a gluten-free diet do so without a diagnosis of celiac disease.

"There are a lot of people on a gluten-free diet, and it's not clear what the medical need for that is," Dr. Murray says. "It is important if someone thinks they might have celiac disease that they be tested first before they go on the diet."

To determine its prevalence, researchers combined blood tests confirming celiac disease with interviews from a (CDC) nationwide population sample survey called National Health and . The survey, designed to assess the health and nutrition of U.S. adults and children, is unique in that it combines interviews and physical examinations.

Researchers found that celiac disease is much more common in .

"In fact, virtually all the individuals we found were non-Hispanic Caucasians," says co-author Alberto Rubio-Tapia, M.D., a Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist. But previous research in Mexico has shown that celiac disease could be just as common as it is in the U.S.

"So that is something we don't fully understand," Dr. Rubio-Tapia says. The study found the rate of celiac disease in the U.S. is similar to that found in several European countries.

Explore further: Medical follow-up in celiac disease is less than optimal

Related Stories

Medical follow-up in celiac disease is less than optimal

July 25, 2012
Follow-up exams for patients with celiac disease are often inadequate and highly variable, according to a new study in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the official clinical practice journal of the American Gastroenterological ...

Increased celiac disease prevalence in women with unexplained infertility

August 18, 2011
A recent study demonstrated increased rates of celiac disease in women who present with unexplained infertility. Published in the May-June 2011 issue of The Journal of Reproductive Medicine, the study evaluated 191 female ...

Recommended for you

Two Group A Streptococcus genes linked to 'flesh-eating' bacterial infections

September 22, 2017
Group A Streptococcus bacteria cause a variety of illnesses that range from mild nuisances like strep throat to life-threatening conditions including pneumonia, toxic shock syndrome and the flesh-eating disease formally known ...

Residents: Frontline defenders against antibiotic resistance?

September 22, 2017
Antibiotic resistance continues to grow around the world, with sometimes disastrous results. Some strains of bacteria no longer respond to any currently available antibiotic, making death by infections that were once easily ...

Ecosystem approach makes urinary tract infection more treatable

September 22, 2017
The biological term 'ecosystem' is not usually associated with urinary tract infections, but this should change according to Wageningen scientists.

Investigators may unlock mystery of how staph cells dodge the body's immune system

September 21, 2017
For years, medical investigators have tried and failed to develop vaccines for a type of staph bacteria associated with the deadly superbug MRSA. But a new study by Cedars-Sinai investigators shows how staph cells evade the ...

Superbug's spread to Vietnam threatens malaria control

September 21, 2017
A highly drug resistant malaria 'superbug' from western Cambodia is now present in southern Vietnam, leading to alarming failure rates for dihydroartemisinin (DHA)-piperaquine—Vietnam's national first-line malaria treatment, ...

Individualized diets for irritable bowel syndrome better than placebo

September 21, 2017
Patients with irritable bowel syndrome who follow individualized diets based on food sensitivity testing experience fewer symptoms, say Yale researchers. Their study is among the first to provide scientific evidence for this ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.