Celiac disease continues to be an increasing issue for local residents. It’s not our imagination, it is increasing. Based on 2012 information from the Mayo Clinic, 1 percent of the U.S. population is estimated to have this disease, but only 5 percent realize it.
Typically, it is a clinical diagnosis rather than a definitive one. When applying numbers to our county population of 51,334, then 513 would probably have celiac disease and 26 people know they have it. On any given day, I feel I must be interacting with the same 26 people all the time. Seems to be more than 26. Actually, in addition to those with celiac, many other residents follow a gluten-free diet for various other reasons and cures as well.
To have celiac, one must have the genes to have the disease. But I couldn’t figure out why 12 percent of new product claims focused on gluten-free until I read Consumer Market Research. It reported about one-third of U.S. adults said they wanted to cut down or be free of gluten by January 2013. Reasons listed were weight loss, better sports performance, celebrity endorsements and the biggie – better nutrition and other health benefits. Can you hear my sigh of frustration? None are research-based and, actually, can be harmful; so why would any health-care provider recommend this for a patient for weight loss, foggy brain or constipation?
There is no evidence that gluten is harmful in healthy people – those without a gluten-related disorder. Gluten-free will not produce weight loss, make acid reflux disappear, nor gain you any edge in sports. But, heck, since Lady Gaga and Mylie Cyrus are doing it, well ... .
Anytime one omits specific large groups of high-nutrient foods, malnutrition can result and can’t be taken lightly. People with celiac problems are found also to be more prone to the various auotimmune diseases as well. In the case of gluten intolerance, fiber is often lacking as well as calcium, iron, zinc, folate and specific B vitamins. To help address these nutrient limitations, specific grains such as amaranth, teff and quinoa can help. Because of the extreme reactions to gluten, those dealing with celiac become adept at deciphering food labels and typically cook meals at home. The federal Food and Drug Administration is proposing that products containing less than 20 parts per million gluten to be labeled gluten-free. (Example: One slice of bread contains 125,000 ppm gluten.)
Between 2000 and 2004, new cases of celiac disease increased from 11 per 100,000 up to 17 per 100,000 in people from 1 to 85. The numbers plateaued in 2004 and remained stable at that level through 2011. It was found that 63 percent of new cases involved females. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic proposed that numbers are increasing as a result of increased awareness of signs and symptoms by medical-care providers, improved diagnostic opportunities, and increased numbers of new cases. They proposed that several factors could account for the increased incidence, particularly a change in the environment, gastrointestinal infections and high consumption of gluten-containing foods (such as breads, bagels, pizza).
The thinking is that something in the environment seems to be triggering various genetic and biological factors that drive celiac disease faster than we adapt.
email@example.com or 247-4355. Wendy Rice is family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office.