As wheat spreads around the world, so does celiac disease.
That's one of the conclusions from a new summary of best practices in diagnosing and treating the condition, written by celiac disease experts Drs. Alessio Fasano and Carlo Catassi and published today in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Drs. Fasano and Catassi note that celiac affects between 0.6% and 1% of the population worldwide. Although many regard it as a condition that afflicts mainly caucasians, it's also common in North Africa and the Middle East ... countries that are beginning to adopt a Westernized, wheat-filled diet. In India, celiac occurs mainly in the northwestern part of the country, which (not coincidentally) is where wheat is a staple food.
"We are now seeing cases in China," says Dr. Catassi, a pediatrician at the Universitą Politecnica delle Marche in Ancona, Italy, and an expert on celiac disease epidemiology, "and in many developing countries the 'Westernization' of the diet means the rate of celiac disease is also growing."
Although diagnosis has improved in recent years, Drs. Fasano and Catassi note that the vast majority of people with celiac disease (79% in a recent European study) still don't know they have the condition. And although many people have the "typical" celiac disease symptoms of diarrhea and fatigue, others have so-called silent celiac disease, with no noticeable symptoms (but still plenty of intestinal damage).
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