Celiac.com 04/07/2011 - People with celiac disease are 60 percent more likely to develop asthma than people without celiac disease, according to a new study, which appears in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
Moreover, the study results show that those with asthma are also more likely to eventually develop celiac disease. Indeed, for every 100,000 people with celiac disease, 147 will have asthma that would not have occurred in the absence of the digestive disorder.
To assess possible links between celiac disease and asthma, Dr. Jonas Ludvigsson of Orebro University Hospital and the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and colleagues compared more than 28,000 Swedes diagnosed with celiac to more than 140,000 similar people without the disease.
Ludvigsson cautions that the study merely shows an links between the two diseases, it does not establish that asthma causes celiac disease, or vice versa.
The exact nature of the association between the two diseases is unclear, but Ludvigsson told reporters that he thinks "the role of vitamin D deficiency should be stressed."
Ludwigsson points out that people with celiac are more likely to develop osteoporosis and tuberculosis, both diseases in which vitamin D plays a role. If a person with celiac also has low levels of vitamin D, this could in turn affect the immune system, which could increase the risk of developing asthma.
Another possibility, he points out, is that "asthma and celiac disease share some immunological feature. If you have it, you are at increased risk of both diseases.
Ludvigsson also addresses the fact that the study did not establish levels of compliance with a gluten-free diet among the participants with celiac disease by noting that general "dietary compliance is high in Sweden," so he believes that "patients with good adherence are at increased risk of asthma."