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  • Jefferson Adams

    Lower Rates of Child Mortality Mirror Rising Rates of Celiac Disease

    Jefferson Adams
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    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Photo: Thomas Shahan
    Caption: Photo: Thomas Shahan

    Celiac.com 03/01/2018 - Mortality rates for children under five have been falling steadily for decades. Additionally, there's plenty of data to indicate that rates of celiac disease have been rising in general population.

    Before doctors understood the role that gluten played in celiac disease, the prognosis for young children with the condition was grim. Since doctors didn't understand the underlying disease, many of these deaths were simply logged as deaths due to wasting or failure to thrive. Could fewer children dying from celiac disease help explain the apparent rise in celiac rates? In an attempt to answer that question, a team of researchers recently set out to to investigate a possible relationship between mortality rates in children under five years old and rates of celiac disease.



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    The research team included F Biagi, A Raiteri, A Schiepatti, C Klersy, and GR Corazza. They are variously affiliated with the First Department of Internal Medicine, Coeliac Centre, and the Biometry and Clinical Epidemiology, Fondazione IRCCS Policlinico San Matteo, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy.

    A review of medical literature revealed 27 studies from 17 different countries concerning rates of celiac disease in schoolchildren between 1995 and 2011, 4 studies were performed in Italy. The researchers conducted a meta-analysis of prevalence rates and compared them between specific country under-5 mortality groups, publication year, and age.

    Over the last twenty years or so, mortality rates for kids under 5 have been decreasing all over the world. This reduction has mirrored an increase of the rates of celiac disease. The Spearman correlation coefficient was -63%, 95% confidence interval -82% to -33% (P < 0.001). The data show that higher mortality rates mirrored lower rates of celiac disease. This finding is confirmed by the meta-analysis of the four Italian studies.

    Rates of death for children under 5 years of age seem to influence rates of celiac disease in the general population. Basically, less kids dying young contributes to higher celiac disease rates later on.

    Because gluten-free diet treatment and numerous other developments allow a better survival of children with celiac disease, the number of people with celiac disease will likely increase for some time into the future.

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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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