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  • Jefferson Adams

    Ten Amazing Facts About Celiac Disease

    Jefferson Adams
    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      Here are ten facts about celiac disease that might amaze you.

    Image: CC BY 2.0--Rusty Clark ~ 100K Photos
    Caption: Image: CC BY 2.0--Rusty Clark ~ 100K Photos

    Celiac.com 10/16/2019 - For many decades, celiac disease was regarded as a rare condition with clear symptoms. However, as celiac disease research has progressed, once common assumptions about celiac disease have fallen away. More people are being tested, celiac awareness is rising, and medical perspectives are shifting. For example, contrary to common belief, recent research shows that only about one-in-three adult celiac patients experience diarrhea. Weight loss is also not a common sign. In fact, patients diagnosed these days are far more likely to be overweight, and to have atypical symptoms, or even no clear symptoms at all.

    Here are ten facts about celiac disease that might amaze you.

    1) Celiac Disease is Linked to Neanderthal Ancestry

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    Most humans share some degree of DNA in common with our Neanderthal cousins of yesteryear. That's especially true if you have celiac disease. That's because celiac disease is directly tied to Neanderthal DNA. If you have celiac disease, you can thank a distant Neanderthal ancestor.

    2) Celiac Affects Hispanic, Asian, Arabic, and Many Other Non-European Populations

    While celiac disease mostly affects people of European, especially Northern European, descent, recent studies show that it also affects portions of the Hispanic, African-American, and Asian populations. Celiac disease has not been well-studied in the African-American population, though cases are not unheard of. There is also some evidence to show that more black Americans are avoiding gluten.

    Other recent studies show that populations in Saudi Arabia, India, Italy, and parts of Africa carry genes for celiac disease, and have higher rates than previously believed. Rates of gluten-related disorders as high as 11.8% in some Asia-Pacific groups.

    3) There is No Cure or Vaccine for Celiac Disease

    The only current accepted treatment for celiac disease is a strict gluten-free diet. So far, efforts to make a vaccine for celiac disease have failed.

    4) Celiac Disease Affects More Women Than Men

    Women suffer from celiac disease at about twice the rate of men.

    5) Minor Dental Defects Can Predict Celiac Disease

    Defects in dental enamel are good indicators of celiac disease, especially in children.

    6) There are Over 200 Signs and Symptoms of Celiac Disease

    Some patients have several of these signs and symptoms of celiac disease, some just a few. Many report non-gastrointestinal symptoms. 

    7) Most People Don't Have Symptoms

    It's true. Most people diagnosed with celiac disease never show any symptoms at all. 

    8) High Rates of Celiac Disease Among First-Degree Relatives

    If you have a first-degree relative, that is, a parent, child, or sibling with celiac disease, you have a much higher risk for developing celiac disease.

    9) Cigarette Smokers Have Lower Risk of Celiac Disease than Non-Smokers

    Believe it or not, cigarette smokers have a lower rate of celiac disease than non-smokers. Researchers don't quite know what to make of this, and no, smoking won't cure your celiac disease, so best not to start.

    10) These Ten Risk Factors Most Associated with Celiac Disease

    There are a number of risk factors for celiac disease. Here are the ten risk factors most associated with celiac disease.


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    My celiac experience: (a) massive diarrhea for 4.5 hour duration post gluten ingestion before the public had even heard the term "gluten".  (b) severe malnutrition my calcium levels dropped substantially. (c) developed hyperparathyroidism in response. (d) bone pain-encephalopathy-double vision & nystagmus. (e) surgery to remove adenoma. (f) I only eat out at 1 restaurant with a designated gluten-free fryer & that's only a single food item.  (g) I cook at home 99% of meals. (h) social isolation because parties are mostly about food. CONCLUSION: Ya gotta do what ya gotta do to survive in this world.


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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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