I was just reading a summary article about a Mayo Clinic study published a couple months ago in the journal of Gastroenterology, where the study looked at LONG-TERM (45+ years) mortality outcomes for people affected with Celiac disease (an immune system reaction to gluten in the diet), and the trends in population-prevalence of this disease.
Here are the key findings in brief:
- [study] 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 [I read this as: ignoring Celiac disease, and leaving it untreated (i.e., not following a strict gluten-free diet), leads to premature death, simply put]
- undiagnosed or 'silent' celiac disease may have a significant impact on survival; [four-times higher mortality-rate is certainly significant!]
- Celiac Disease is 4.5 times more common today than it was 50 years ago [it now affects about 1 in every 100 people in the general population], but scientists do not know why;
- The increasing prevalence, combined with the mortality impact, suggests celiac disease could be a significant public health issue. [perhaps this is obvious after reading those prior bullet-points, right?]
This data was then aligned with information about those study-participants' lifespans and longevity (or lack thereof) over the next 45+ years, and poof: out popped this alarming bit of information about those with undiagnosed or untreated (i.e., non-gluten-free diet followers) Celiac Disease, and how they were dying off at a rate 4 times higher than the general population!
The best thing about studies like this is not the fear that it may put into those with Celiac Disease or gluten-intolerance (though, being "scared into" a strict gluten-free diet may be the only way some people will follow the diet they should), but the important thing is increased awareness of the severity of the disease throughout the medical community. The study pointed out how testing for CD should be treated perhaps just like testing for cholesterol, high blood pressure, or other equal risks to patient mortality.
With a disease that presents with a series of wide-ranging symptoms including diarrhea, abdominal discomfort, weight loss, anemia, unexplained infertility, loss of teeth or even premature or severe osteoporosis, there has to be a better way of detecting Celiac Disease (as the true *cause*) more quickly and effectively than the current hunt-and-peck approach to "diagnosing" CD that many of us have experienced.
This quote from the study says it all:
"Some studies have suggested that for every person who has been diagnosed with celiac disease, there are likely 30 who have it but are not diagnosed. And given the nearly quadrupled mortality risk for silent celiac disease we have shown in our study, getting more patients and health professionals to consider the possibility of celiac disease is important."If you, or anyone you know, is likely to have Celiac Disease and is ignoring the signs and/or not following a strict gluten-free diet, please... point out the fact that they may be gambling with their life expectancy and that this gluten-free requirement is something to be taken seriously. And, on the flip-side, do not obsess about the numbers from this study if you follow a gluten-free diet: the study only found that "silent Celiac" (i.e., untreated) was a predictor of higher mortality.
The bottom line: maintain a proper gluten-free diet with solid nutrition and exercise, and you should remain outside the at-risk population described in this study.
Note: if you want to read the summary yourself, here is a link to it: Science Daily - CD Long-Term Study Article.