Two pieces of research which suggest that untreated coeliac disease may affect the brain and shorten lifespan.

Using data taken from biopsies taken between July 1969 and February 2008 in Sweden, researchers were able to examine the overall risk of death in individuals with coeliac disease and digestive inflammation and compare it to the general population. Their research is published in Journal of the American Medical Association.

They found that patients with inflammation had a 72% increased risk of death; patients with coeliac disease had a 39% increased risk; and patients with latent celiac disease had a 35% increased risk of death.

Lead author Jonas Ludvigsson of the Orebro University Hospital suggested that energy and vitamin malnutrition and chronic inflammation may increase the risk of death as even patients who maintain gluten-free diets have persisting lesions. However those with inflammation who had not been diagnosed with coeliac disease might have an overall worse prognosis because following a gluten-free diet often normalizes gut functionality.

The risk of death was highest in the first year of follow-up but decreased with age at diagnosis, with risk being higher for those diagnosed before age 20.

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and - courtesy of Latitudes.

Recent research has linked celiac disease (CD) to a number of developmental and neurologic disorders. In 2004, Nathanel Zelnik and collegues The Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel reached the following conclusion (published in Pediatrics June 2004) after studying CD and a select number of disorders:

“The spectrum of neurologic disorders in patients with CD is wider than previously appreciated and includes, in addition to previously known entities such as cerebellar ataxia, epilepsy, or neuromuscular diseases, milder and more common problems such as migraine headache and learning disabilities, including ADHD.”

Triggered by the consumption of gluten-containing foods (wheat, rye, and barley), CD is now estimated to affect 1 in 106 children compared to 1 in 652 adults just fifty years ago, based on a new study by Dr. Alberto Rubio-Tapia and colleagues from the Mayo Clinic. Changes in food growing and processing methods, along with other environmental issues, are suspected of causing the increase.

Untreated, CD results in inflammation of the digestive system, with undigested proteins triggering the immune system to attack the intestinal lining. When this occurs, patients have difficulty absorbing nutrients, which can lead to a number of health problems.

According to the current Rubio-Tapia study, unrecognized CD can increase the rate of death. The team identified people with undiagnosed CD from frozen blood samples of 9,000 presumably healthy individuals. They then conducted a 45-year follow up on these cases and found a significantly higher rate of death among this group compared to those without CD. In other words, those who had CD but were unaware of it and did not change their diet to avoid gluten-containing foods tended to die at a younger age. The authors suggest the increased rate of death was four times as high as for those without CD.

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