The study confirms an increase in wheat gluten disorder.
Blood samples from the 50s show it isn't just improved diagnosis, and researchers wonder if the diet is a factor.
By JOSEPHINE MARCOTTY, Star Tribune
Last update: July 1, 2009 - 9:27 AM
A Minnesota study using frozen blood samples taken from Air Force recruits 50 years ago has found that intolerance of wheat gluten, a debilitating digestive condition, is four times more common today than it was in the 1950s.
The findings contradict the prevailing belief that a sharp increase in diagnoses of wheat gluten intolerance has come about because of greater awareness and detection, and raises questions about whether dramatic changes in the American diet have played a role.
Its become much more common, Said Dr. Joseph Murray, The Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist who led the study. No one knows why, He said, But one reason might be rapid changes in eating habits and food processing over the last half-century.
Fifty years is way too fast for human genetics to have changed, Murray said. Which tells us it has to be a pervasive environmental influence.
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota who conducted the study also found that the recruits who had the Undiagnosed digestive disorder, Called celiac disease, also had a Four-Fold increase in the risk of death.
Today an estimated one of 100 people suffer from the inherited disorder, Though most of the time people don't know they have it.
The disease occurs in people whose bodies cannot digest gluten, a protein found in Wheat, Rye, and Barley. The undigested protein triggers the body's immune system to attack the lining of the small intestine, Causing Diarrhea, nausea and abdominal pain. Though people live with it for many years, Over time it destroys the lining of the small intestine, Leading to an inability to absorb nutrients such as iron and calcium. That, in turn, Causes serious problems, Including Anemia, Osteoporosis and even Infertility.
The only treatment is a Gluten-Free diet - no Wheat, Rye or Barley.
Murray said he initiated the study to find out whether the disease is on the rise, and whether it had Long-Term health consequences if Undiagnosed and Untreated.