A new study published online by the Annals of Medicine reports a significant increase in people with celiac disease — particularly in the elderly.  The results were a surprise to researchers.   According to the study’s abstract: “During a 15-year period [celiac disease] prevalence increased 2-fold in the CLUE cohort and 5-fold overall in the US since 1974. The CLUE study demonstrated that this increase was due to an increasing number of subjects that lost the immunological tolerance to gluten in their adulthood.”

Of course, that raises the important question:  why did so many subject lose their immunological tolerance to gluten?

Here is what the study’s lead author had to say:


“It may be the environment that has made this change over time.  Grains now are more refined and therefore have more gluten. It could also be the quantity of grains that we eat. It could be the composition of the bacteria that live in our intestines that can trick our immune system differently now than the past. These are all obvious — but not solid — guesses.”

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“We’re in the midst of an autoimmunity epidemic, and celiac disease is not an exception. . . .”

Los Angeles Times :

What causes late onset of celiac disease isn’t known. People must have a genetic predisposition to it, but scientists aren’t sure why gluten intolerance would develop after so many trouble-free years.

Fasano said environmental factors may trigger changes in the immune system that could activate anti-gluten gene. But identifying those factors won’t be easy.

“What has changed in the environment in the last 30 years?” Fasano said. “We have more antibiotics, more vaccinations, bioengineered foods, chemicals we haven’t been exposed to, and pollutants that haven’t been around in the concentrations we have now.”