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Cancer Risk 47% Lower--Risk of Heart Disease is 48% Higher in those with Celiac Disease

Celiac.com 12/11/2006 – A retrospective cohort study presented by Gunnar Midhagen with his Doctoral and Licentiate Theses at Linköping University, Sweden, found that those with diagnosed celiac disease actually have a 47% lower cancer risk than the normal population, presumably because a majority of them follow a gluten-free diet (although the study did not address this). The study also found that those with celiac disease have a 38% higher mortality rate than the normal population, which is due to a 48% higher rate of death due to ischemic heart disease. It would be interesting to determine what causes the higher heart disease risk, and I would speculate that it has to do with fat absorption—specifically the decreased ability of those with celiac disease to absorb omega-3 fatty acids. More on this topic can be found in this article:

Here is the abstract of the study:

High Mortality in Ischemic Heart Disease in Patients with Celiac Disease
Gunnar Midhagen
Department of Internal Medicine, Skovde Hospital, Skovde, Sweden

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INTRODUCTION: "Previous reports about increased risks of malignancies and mortality in patients with celiac disease have been criticized as skewed by selection bias, because they emanate from referral centers. Recent register based studies indicate lower risks, but are contingent on complete registration."

AIMS & METHODS: "Our aim was to perform a retrospective cohort study of all celiac disease patients residing in two Swedish counties and evaluate the risks of malignancies and excess mortality. All diagnosed celiac disease patients 15 years or older who were residents of the örebro and Linköping hospitals primary catchment areas on 31 Dec. 1986 were identified and followed up for at least 15 years. All celiac disease patients were checked against the Swedish hospital inpatient register. Standardized mortality ratios (SMR) and standard incidence ratios of cancer (SIR) were calculated."

RESULTS: "There was a 47 percent lower risk of all malignancies in our total celiac population SIR=0.53 (95% C.I. 0.31-0.83) as compared with the general population. Total mortality was increased by 38% (SMR 1.38, 95% C.I. 1.08-1.75) as compared with the general population and was most pronounced in patients over 65 years (SMR 1.46).This was mainly explained by a 48% increased death rate in ischemic heart disease, significant in patients over 65 years (SMR 1.58, 95% C.I. 1.00-2.06). "

CONCLUSION: "In a population based setting including all patients with celiac disease, there was no increased risk of malignancies. However, this study confirms an excess mortality risk, which appears to be attributable to ischemic heart disease mainly in patients over 65 years of age."

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