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Study finds increasing number of elderly people are prone to celiac diseases

February 28, 2016

The finding contradicts the common wisdom that nothing can be done to prevent autoimmune disease unless the triggers that cause autoimmunity are identified and removed. Gluten is one of the triggers for celiac disease. But if individuals can tolerate gluten for many decades before developing celiac disease, some environmental factor or factors other than gluten must be in play, notes Dr. Fasano.

Identifying and manipulating those factors could lead to novel treatment and possible prevention of celiac disease and other autoimmune disorders including type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. Researchers at the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research are working toward that goal, says Dr. Fasano. As the third most common disease category after cancer and heart disease, autoimmune disorders affect approximately five to eight percent of the U.S. population, according to the National Institutes of Health.

"The groundbreaking research of Dr. Fasano and his team sheds new light on the development of celiac disease, a complex disorder that continues to present challenges to physicians and their patients," says E. Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A, vice president for medical affairs, University of Maryland, and John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and dean, University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Diagnosis of celiac disease can be a challenge as patients who test positive for the disease may not display the classic symptoms of gastrointestinal distress linked to the disease. Atypical symptoms include joint pain, chronic fatigue and depression. In the study, only 11 percent of people identified as positive for celiac disease autoimmunity through blood samples had actually been diagnosed with the disease.

Source: University of Maryland Medical Center