Research has shown that celiac disease can develop at any age, but a new study indicates that environmental factors, rather than genetics, may be to blame.
Researchers at University of Maryland’s Center for Celiac Research and Mucosal Biology Research Center analyzed blood samples from more than 3,500 adults, comparing results in 1974 to those of the same adults in 1989. According to the study, the incidence of celiac disease doubled from one in 501 in 1974 to one in 219 in 1989. As of 2003, celiac disease prevalence was estimated to be one in 133.
The University of Maryland School of Medicine News reported:
“Although researchers have identified specific genetic markers for the development of celiac disease, exactly how and why an individual loses tolerance to gluten remains a mystery. ‘Even if you have these genetic markers, it's not your destiny to develop an autoimmune disease,’ adds Fasano. ‘Our study shows that environmental factors cause an individual's immune system to lose tolerance to gluten, given the fact that genetics was not a factor in our study since we followed the same individuals over time.’"
USA Today examined the impact:
"This study adds weight to the concept that celiac disease can emerge at any age, because researchers surveyed the same people over time, says Joseph Murray, a Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist."
This announcement comes on the tails of an unrelated study that found one-third of children with positive blood tests for celiac disease but a normal biopsy developed intestinal damage within 3 years of follow-up.