Posted on Jul 07, 2009, 11 a.m.
By gary clark
Intolerance to wheat gluten is far more prevalent today than 50 years ago, with a new study finding that the digestive condition is now four times more common.
Researchers from the Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota conducted a study in order to determine whether Celiac disease, which occurs in people who are unable to digest gluten, is on the rise. The scientists turned to "medical archeology" for answers, specifically to frozen blood samples taken from recruits at the Warren Air Force base in Cheyenne, WY, between 1948 and 1954, where at the time strep infections were rampant. The samples are part of a now-famous study that proved treating strep infections with antibiotics would prevent rheumatic fever, a serious heart ailment that can follow strep throat.
The researchers discovered that intolerance to wheat gluten is four times more common today than it was at that time. They also found that those recruits who had Celiac disease also had a four-fold increase in the risk of death. The findings were particularly surprising as the medical community has commonly believed that the significant increase in the diagnoses of wheat gluten intolerance was the result of greater awareness and detection. Dr. Andrew Murray of the Mayo Clinic says that scientists don't know exactly why gluten intolerance is more common today, but suggests that one reason may be related to rapid changes in our eating habits and changes in the way food is processed. "Fifty years is way too fast for human genetics to have changed," says Dr. Murray. "Which tells us it has to be a pervasive environmental influence."
The study involved testing more than 9,133 samples for the antibodies that would show whether or not the recruits had Celiac disease. Of those, 43 or approximately one out of 652 had the debilitating digestive condition, which is caused when undigested protein found in wheat, rye and barley trigger the body's immune system to attack the lining of the small intestine. Dr. Murray and his team then tested blood samples from a group of approximately 12,000 men from Olmsted County in Minnesota. In the group of older men, one in 121 tested positive; in the younger men one in 106 tested positive. This represented a four to four-and-a-half times increase.
News Release: Gluten allergy a growing problem in U.S. study shows http://thestamfordtimes.com/story/471811 July 6, 2009