The prevalence of celiac disease appears to be rising dramatically. Joseph Murray, M.D., a Mayo gastroenterologist, says celiac disease is becoming a public health issue. Studies show four times the incidence compared to 1950, with fatal complications if it goes untreated.
"Celiac disease was rare, but it's now more common in all age groups," Dr. Murray says. Although the cause is unknown, celiac disease affects about one in 100 people. What's more, Mayo has found a fourfold higher death risk for people with undiagnosed gluten intolerance.
[*Interestingly, the original link to this story on the Mayo clinic web site is broken, and I couldn't find it there at all -- hence the Google cache.]
Unresolved questions relevant to a complete understanding of immune responses to gluten are: Why is the rate of late onset gluten sensitivity rapidly rising? Is this truly a wheat problem, or something that is being done to wheat, or to those who are eating wheat (for example, communicable diseases a trigger? Some individuals are susceptible by genetics (early onset), but many late onset cases could have different triggers because there is nothing genetically separating the 30 to 40% of people that could have Triticeae sensitivity from the ~1% that, in their lifetime, will have some level of this disease.
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