The number of Americans diagnosed with celiac disease rose like a gluten-packed loaf of bread in the first part of the last decade, then leveled off in 2004, according to a new study.
In research published online in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, scientists analyzed data on a small but statistically potent sample of people living in the Olmsted County, Minnesota. That county is home to a highly-studied population who live in the neighborhood of the Mayo Clinic and two affiliated hospitals.
Researchers found that between the years 2000 and 2010, the number of new cases of celiac disease increased from about 11 people per 100,000 to about 17 people per 100,000. Over the entire decade starting in 2000, some 249 people were diagnosed with celiac disease in the county. People as young as one year old and as old as 85 received a diagnosis, and about 63 percent of the new cases were women.
"We're finding a lot more celiac disease," Joseph Murray, MD, the study's senior author from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, told Reuters.com.
"Some of that is probably that we're better at detecting it, but the fact that we're finding it all the time shows that there are a number of new cases," he added. About one percent of Americans have the disease. “This study shows not only did it go up, but it kind of plateaued in 2004 and it remained stable at that elevated level," Murray said.
He wrote in his American Journal of Gastroenterology story that the increased incidence of celiac disease may be partly due to doctors knowing about the signs and symptoms of celiac disease and screening people at risk, but not entirely. "Something has changed in our environment that's driving an increased incidence of celiac disease," he said. Fortunately for those that suffer with the condition, something else has changed in the last decade: There are far more tasty gluten-free options today than there were ten years ago.