Steady Prevalence in Celiac Disease Despite Increase in Gluten Free Diets

Although the prevalence of celiac disease has relatively been steady, statistics of gluten free diet- followers have increased, according to a research letter published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Although the prevalence of celiac disease has relatively been steady, statistics of gluten free diet- followers have increased, according to a research letter published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Researchers from Rutgers University aimed to evaluate current trends in the prevalence of celiac disease compared to the prevalence of gluten free diets in people with and without gluten intolerances. To do this, the investigators collected nationally representative data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys between 2009 and 2014. Included in the study were 22,000 people six years or older who underwent testing for celiac disease. The patients were also interviewed about their diets.

The number of individuals with celiac disease diagnoses was 106 patients, or 69%, while 213 patients (1.08%) identified as adhering to gluten free diets — even though they were not diagnosed with celiac disease. The researchers explained their figures accurately correlated to the estimated 1.76 million celiac disease patients in the country and 2.7 million followers of gluten free diets in the US.

The study authors also examined the rates of celiac diagnosis in the country throughout the study period. The numbers remained relatively steady: 70% in 2009-10, 77% in 2011-12, and 58% in 2013-14. However, adherence to gluten free diets rose over the same time period: 52% in 2009-10, 99% in 2011-12, and 1.69% in 2013-14. The researchers mentioned that these factors might be related, because the decreased gluten consumption could be “contributing to the plateau in celiac disease”.

“There are many reasons, beyond celiac disease, that may account for the increasing popularity of gluten free diets,” the study authors concluded. “First, the public perception is that gluten free diets are healthier and may provide benefits to nonspecific gastrointestinal symptoms. Second, gluten free products were difficult to obtain in the past but not are more widely available at most large supermarkets and online. Third, there is also an increasing number of individuals with self diagnosed gluten sensitivity but not the typical enteropathic or setologic features of celiac disease who have improved gastrointestinal health after avoidance of gluten containing products.”

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