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Celiac.com 04/02/2009 - A recent study finds rates of celiac disease in Polish children are four times higher than estimated, and are only slightly lower than those of other northern European populations—at about 1 in 124 persons. Moreover, they found that symptoms in those diagnosed were typically absent, minimal or vague. To date, the only epidemiological studies of celiac disease undertaken in Poland had been carried out within limited areas and involved mainly symptomatic patients or high-risk groups. Until now, celiac was thought to affect about 1 in 400 children in the country. A team of researchers based in Poland recently set out to determine actual rates of celiac disease among Polish children. The research team was made up of Anna B. Szaflarska-Poplawska, Monika Parzecka, Lucyna Muller, Waldemar Placek. The team enrolled 3235 local children aged 12 to 15 years from the city of Bydgoszcz, and conducted screens for antiendomysial antibodies IgA endomysium (EmA) and IgG EmA. Patients with positive IgA EmA and/or IgG EmA results were offered a small-bowel biopsy. They found that 25 children showed positive IgA EmA and/or IgG EmA results (0.8%). 11 children elected to undergo biopsy. 7 showed histological features of celiac disease of either Marsh stage III-B or III-C, 4 children showed normal histology, while 14 children opted to skip the small-bowel biopsy. As is common with celiac disease, more girls than boys were affected (P<0.0001), while 2 of the 7 children with celiac disease showed no symptoms, and the other 5 presented only vague or mild symptoms. Original national estimates put the incidence of celiac disease among children in Poland at1 in 404, while the team’s serologic sampling shows that to be nearly four times higher at 1 in 124. The authors note that these updated figures are slightly lower than those of other countries, and that symptoms were generally absent, or vague and unclear symptoms course, despite the presence of advanced lesions in the small bowel. Overall, though, it seems that the rates found in Poland match rates in North America, which all hover at about 1% of the population. Of particular interest is the rise of asymptomatic, or vaguely symptomatic instances of the disease, in which damage is occurring, but no outward signs are present. Medical Science Monitor 2009.
I'm a big believer in fun, especially when it comes to eating. And just because your child is on a gluten-free diet doesn't mean he or she should be deprived of one of life's greatest pleasures. It will require a little extra work on your part, but its well worth it. Don't think your choices are limited to carob and fruit-juice tofu, and don't limit yourself to the health food stores (unless that's your preference - I should have mentioned that I'm big on fun, but I'm also big on junk food; I think its an important part of growing up). Learn to read labels carefully, and to call manufacturers. Even if a label appears to be gluten-free, you should call the manufacturer to make sure there are no hidden ingredients, and to ask about manufacturing procedures. Many chocolate bars, for instance, are coated in flour to keep them from sticking to machinery and wrapping. More tips, additional information on gluten-free treats, and lists of gluten-free junk food can be found at www.celiac.com and in Danna's book, Kids with Celiac Disease.