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  • Jefferson Adams

    How Common is Non-celiac Gluten-sensitivity?

    Jefferson Adams
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    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Photo: CC--hill_josh
    Caption: Photo: CC--hill_josh

    Celiac.com 11/14/2013 - Until now, rates of non-celiac gluten sensitivity were largely a matter of clinical speculation, basically, educated guesswork among doctors.

    Some thought that rates of non-celiac gluten-sensitivity might by much higher than rates of celiac disease in the USA. But there was just no actual clinical data supporting these claims.



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    A team of researchers recently set out to get some good clinical data that would tell them how common non-celiac gluten sensitivity actually is.

    The research team included Daniel V. DiGiacomo, Christina A. Tennyson, Peter H. Green, and Ryan T. Demmer. They are variously affiliated with the Department of Medicine, Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University, and the Department of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York.

    The authors used the Continuous National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2009–2010 to enroll 7762 people from the civilian, non-institutionalized, US population free of celiac disease.

    They then analyzed the data to estimate rates of adherence to a gluten-free diet among participants without celiac disease as a surrogate marker for non-celiac gluten sensitivity in the US.

    They also used the data to characterize the demographics and general health status of the study participants.

    Overall, forty-nine participants reported adherence to a gluten-free diet. With a weighted national prevalence of 0.548%, this represents 1.3 million individuals between 6 and 80 years old in the US.

    The prevalence of a gluten-free diet was higher in females (0.58%) than males (0.37%), although this was not statistically significant (p = 0.34).

    Participants reporting a gluten-free diet were older (46.6 vs. 40.5 years, p = 0.005), had higher high-density lipoprotein, lower iron and lower body mass index.

    These numbers put the estimated national prevalence of non-celiac gluten sensitivity at 0.548%, about half the rate of celiac disease.

    However, the team calls for further studies in order to better understand the population burden of non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

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    This article is very good, but the original research is mediocre. How can they call avoidance of gluten the same as gluten sensitivity? Gluten-containing grains have all sorts of other things, for example FODMAP carbs that in some people seem to cause irritable bowel syndrome (IBS); in fact doctors are telling IBS patients to prefer gluten-free foods but probably not because the gluten but because they wont have the FODMAPs either. Not very scientific research.

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    This article is very good, but the original research is mediocre. How can they call avoidance of gluten the same as gluten sensitivity? Gluten-containing grains have all sorts of other things, for example FODMAP carbs that in some people seem to cause irritable bowel syndrome (IBS); in fact doctors are telling IBS patients to prefer gluten-free foods but probably not because the gluten but because they wont have the FODMAPs either. Not very scientific research.

    I concur. This is either poor science or poor representation of science. Adherence to a gluten-free diet is not a valid marker. This study simply indicates, relatively accurately, that a portion of the non-celiac community is adhering to gluten-free diets (by their own report). This is a survey without many signs of noteworthy biological discussion.

     

    I am currently looking for valid science that actually indicates Non-celiac Gluten Sensitivity is a real thing (beyond people saying "I feel better" which means very little in the larger scheme of science). Until that can be demonstrated all I see are people raising the demand (and, therefore, typically the cost) of (already more expensive) gluten-free foods.

     

    That isn't to say that I don't believe it exists, but I'm trying to find good research instead of anecdotal reports. Perhaps there is more detail in the research? I'm not for signing up for websites or paying for science journals without being able to read the abstract first.

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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 2,500 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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