The news came out Friday: The headline in USA Today said Celiac disease on the rise in the US! Yes, a very alarming article– that lead to even more alarming headlines even outside the US (some of which I can’t help but highlight below).
I have to say it is a very interesting article with great points. However, for people who may be at home freaking out about it, I don’t believe there is much NEW news here, but rather great information from the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland and the University of Chicago’s Celiac Disease Center played in a highly visible media outlet: USAToday. Am I wrong?
It’s more of an awareness article than a breaking news article. And that’s okay– except other media seemed to treat it like breaking news. Let’s take a peek.
More Celiac Disease in US Now than Before
The article started with the statistic that said, “Nearly five times as many people have celiac disease today than did during the 1950s, according to one recent study.” That is from the Mayo Clinic study that was reported in 2009.
And the quote that reads, “Another report found that the rate of celiac disease has doubled every 15 years since 1974 and is now believed to affect one in every 133 U.S. residents,” the 1 in 133 number is from the Center for Celiac Research’s study in 2003.
The information I really got a lot out of was what came after the “old-news, jaw-dropping, headline-grabbing” statistics. USA Today appeared to have new interviews from Dr. Alessio Fasano at the Center for Celiac Research and Carol McCarthy Shilson from the University of Chicago’s Celiac Disease Center on the reasons for the increase in celiac disease in the US.
Experts don’t believe its because there’s greater awareness or that there are improved diagnostic tools. But rather it could be one or several other reasons: The most popular reason came from both Dr. Fasano and Shilson — we’re too clean!
Shilson said to USA Today, “We’re just too clean a society, so our immune systems aren’t as developed as they should be.” And Dr. Fasano told USA Today (paraphrased by the newspaper), “…the cleanliness of industrialized society has caused a fundamental change in the composition of the digestive bacteria contained within the gut.”
There are other reasons they mention too: more wheat in our foods than decades ago, kids exposed to gluten too early..etc.
I have to admit I do find it all fascinating and I am so glad it made headlines because it spreads awareness. But in some cases– some media outlets were suddenly talking about like celiac was the plague — of course which it isn’t or it probably would have a better diagnosis rate than 3% (Yup, 97% of people with celiac are not diagnosed).
Headlines on Celiac since Friday
The Dreaded Gluten Allergy May Be Coming For You (Jezebel.com)
US Engulfed by Celiac Disease (United Arab Emirates)
Gluten-free diet vital to control celiac disease (Pueblo Chieftian -Colorado)
Awareness Not Enough, Celiac Disease Needs Remedy (topnews.us)
Researchers stumped about the rise in celiac disease (emaxhealth.com)
I am not saying the headlines of these articles aren’t accurate– but you have to admit, some may be a bit exaggerated. There were about 15 other articles I found with very similar basic headlines about celiac increasing in the US.
Bottom line, I appreciate the massive attention this information got, it was a bit more comprehensive in nature rather than groundbreaking. It had good information. Now if the medical community in the US would take greater note of it like the media did– we may get a higher diagnosis rate yet!