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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    Greek Rate of Celiac Disease Among Lowest in Europe

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Celiac.com 01/29/2008 - If the results of a recent study are any indication, the Greeks might be among those least affected by celiac disease.

    The study on the prevalence of celiac disease in Greece shows that the people of Thessaly have a prevalence of celiac disease that is among the lowest of all the European populations.

    Recent discoveries point to a greater prevalence of celiac disease than previously expected in a number of European populations, and the availability of new, accurate serological tests has made screening in the general population possible. These facts, coupled with the reality that no data exist regarding the prevalence of celiac disease in Greece, recently sparked a team of researchers to use a novel diagnostic algorithm to examine the general population of Thessaly, in central Greece, in an effort to determine rates of prevalence for celiac disease.

    Led by doctors Roka V, Potamianos SP, Kapsoritakis AN, Yiannaki EE, Koukoulis GN, Stefanidis I, Koukoulis GK, Germenis AE, the researcher team selected 2230 participants (1226 women, 1004 men, median age 46 years, range 18-80 years) by a random sampling from the adult general population of Thessaly.

    The researchers took blood samples and checked them for total immunoglobulin A (IgA)-serum levels, to eliminate IgA deficiency. The research team then examined samples that showed total IgA within the normal range for IgA antibodies compared to native human-tissue transglutaminase (anti-tTG); the researchers then tested samples that were anti-tTG positive for IgA antiendomysial antibodies (EmA).

    The researchers then examined samples from participants with selective IgA deficiency for IgG antigliadin antibodies. They referred for biopsy and human leucocyte antigen (HLA) typing those participants that showed EmA-positive or antigliadin antibody-positive.

    No participant with selective IgA deficiency was detected. Four individuals tested positive for EmA, all of whom were biopsy-proven coeliacs. Therefore, the prevalence of celiac disease within this general population sample is 1: 558 or 1.8 per 1000 (SE 0.13).

    The two men, two women that did show abnormal histology were between the ages of 18 and 35. Two of them were considered to be asymptomatic and two presented with a sub-clinical course. All four showed the heterodimer HLA-DQ2.

    The evidence indicates that the people of the central Greek area of Thessaly have a prevalence of celiac disease that is among the lowest of all the European populations.

    Eur. J. Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2007 Nov;19(11):982-7.


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    Interesting. I was just thinking about travel in Greece. If the celiac rate is generally low, it might be hard to find Gluten-free foods (other than basics like yogurt, cheese, fruits and veg). Anybody out there know?

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    I am Greek....I can confirm what you are saying!!! No one in Greece seems to know what celiac is!! And of course is very hard for me to explain why I don't eat bread...Any way thanks for the information

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    After living there on and off for years, I noticed the difference of my condition. The beautiful Greek olive oil is something I crave, seemed to be able to cope there as well. I ate mostly the local farmers grew. Lets face it , fresh vegetables and fruit is worlds away from plastic wrap.

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    Both my parents are from Greece. I was fortunate in that mum cooked every meal and she was clever enough to make the ordinary taste terrific. My husband and my stepdaughter both suffer from celiac disease. Most of the recipes I was brought up eating are gluten free or easily adaptable. The only downside is that I have not discovered a gluten free version of Filo pastry yet!

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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