Loads of information came out of the Mayo Clinic today on celiac disease, it could contribute to the way celiac disease is handled in this country in the future. Here are the headlines:
A change in the environment appears to have made celiac more common than 50 years ago
Undiagnosed or “silent” celiac is associated with nearly quadrupled mortality.
May need to consider celiac testing for general population.
Wow! I found those headlines from the Mayo Clinic eyepopping! First of all I love the Mayo Clinic. They do tons of research for all kinds of different health issues. But the clinic and Dr. Joseph Murray have been particularly supportive of celiac disease.
The research which was reported in the journal Gastroenterology was held for a big news release today, which is why you might be seeing everywhere right now.
Celiac Disease is more common
The headline of the news release for the study reads “Celiac Disease Four Times More common than in 1950s”.*
“The Mayo Clinic research team tested blood samples gathered at Warren Air Force Base (AFB) in Wyoming between 1948 and 1954 for the antibody that people with celiac disease produce in reaction to gluten. They compared those blood test results with those from two recently collected sets from Olmsted County, Minn. One [group] matched the ages of those from the 1948–1954 testing at the time of the blood draw, and the other [group] matched their birth years. Researchers found that young people today are 4.5 times more likely to have celiac disease than young people were in the 1950s, while those whose birth years matched the Warren AFB participants were four times more likely to have celiac disease.” – Mayo Clinic
“Celiac disease has become much more common in the last 50 years, and we don’t know why,” said Joseph Murray, M.D., the Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist who led the study.
What is making celiac more common?
“Something has changed in our environment to make it more common,” Dr. Murray said. But it appears they don’t know what.**
Dr. Murray says the study’s findings highlight the need for increased awareness of celiac disease both among physicians and patients. “Part of the problem is that celiac disease symptoms are variable and can be mistaken for other diseases that are more common, such as irritable bowel syndrome.” Dr. Murray continued, “Some studies have suggested that for every person who has been diagnosed with celiac disease, there are nearly 30 who have it but are not diagnosed.”
Undiagnosed celiac associated with quadrupled mortality
“Subjects who did not know they had celiac disease were nearly four times more likely than celiac-free subjects to have died during the 45 years of follow up,” reports the Mayo Clinic’s news release. “The increasing prevalence, combined with the mortality impact, suggests celiac disease could be a significant public health issue,” says Dr. Murray.
Well nothing’s for sure. Dr. Murray suggests a potential need for larger-scale action:
“We may need to consider looking for celiac disease in the general population, more like we do in testing for cholesterol or blood pressure.”
I wish this would happen. I think there are too many people out there having health troubles and not understanding why or “poo-pooing” the idea of celiac disease. I will be impressed and surprised if mass testing ever happens. I sure hope it does – but it will definitely take years of more research and likely some political lobbying to make it happen. In the meantime, we all need to keep spreading the word online and in our communities to let people know about celiac disease.
*Hear and see more! Mayo Clinic’s on-camera interview with Dr. Joseph Murray
**Amy’s two cents: What isn’t addressed in this study is whether more widespread education has helped increase the diagnoses as well. Yes, education in the public and in the health care industry continues to be very poor, but I think more people have heard about celiac disease now than ever before, which could be leading to some additional diagnoses. Surely not the entire 4-fold increase the clinic is talking about, but it may have contributed somewhat. That however is my take – not the Mayo Clinic’s.