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Rates of celiac disease continue to rise, particularly among adults

Category: Autoimmune Diseases

Autoimmune diseases of the digestive tract are thought to impact mainly children and young adults. However, a new study has found that even older adults may benefit from celiac disease testing.

The disease is characterized by an inability to digest gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. If it is left untreated, it can lead to malnutrition, as individuals with the disease are often unable to absorb nutrients in their digestive tract.

Researchers from the University of Maryland found that the number of people with celiac disease has doubled every 15 years since 1974. After taking testing blood samples from more than 3,500 adults, investigators found that the percentage of Americans living with the disease currently stands at one in 133.

The findings indicate that adults are being affected by the rising rates of the disease as much as any other group. As the study's lead author Carlo Catassi put it, individuals are never too old to develop celiac disease.

"You're not necessarily born with celiac disease," he said. "Our findings show that some people develop celiac disease quite late in life."
 

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