Celiac on the Rise

After I mention that I am a Registered Dietitian who specializes in Celiac Disease, the person to whom I am speaking almost always says that they have an acquaintance or family member who has recently been diagnosed with CD. The next question is usually, "Why am I suddenly hearing about this? It seems like everyone is getting it" In part, the answer is an increase in diagnosis. The medical community is just now recognizing the prevalence of the disease.  Better methods of testing for the disease are another factor. In addition, there has been more awareness that CD is not just a gut disease. This has led to identifying those individuals who have symptoms such as non-responsive anemia and osteoporosis. However, increased diagnosis is not the entire explanation. The short answer is that scientists do not understand the cause of the increase throughout the world - not just in the US.

In 2015 the University of Colorado in Denver published the results of a ten year observational study. The study followed 1, 339 infants ,who were deemed at risk, until their teen years. While the accepted wisdom is that CD occurs in 1% of the population, this study pointed to a higher number - more than 3%.  There is an argument that the number is specific to Denver and cannot be extrapolated to other parts of the US. It does, however, fit with numerous findings around the world.

Joseph Murray, a researcher at Mayo Clinic, compared blood samples taken from members of the Air Force in 1950 with samples taken from a county in Minnesota which were collected in 1995. He noted the incidence of CD in 1950 was 0.2%. In the 1995 sample the incidence was 1%. 

It is important for researchers to learn the reason for the increase. This is a condtion which lasts a lifetime.