The dramatic increase in the number of children diagnosed with celiac disease

In a sample study of over 2 million children in the four countries of the United Kingdom, it was found that the number of young children with diagnosed celiac disease (CD)  has nearly tripled. Additionally, researchers found that children from low-income families were 80% less likely to be diagnosed with CD than children from high-income families. These important findings were published in a peer-reviewed article in the online journal, Archives of Disease in Childhood. The significance aspects of this study are discussed here.

In the United States and Western Europe, the prevalence of CD is about 1%. In the past 20 years, several studies have shown an increased the number of biopsy-detected CD in children, the reason for which is unclear. One explanation for the increase in diagnosis is an increase in CD awareness coupled with greater accuracy and availability of screening and testing. It is wonderful news that celiac awareness is on the rise by the public and the medical community. It is nearly equally wonderful that better screening and testing methods have lead to earlier and more accurate diagnosis for individuals with CD, a serious autoimmune disease.

The research team assessed data collected from the UK’s Health Improvement Network (THIN). Of the 2,063,421 children on THIN during this time, 1247 were diagnosed with CD. In 1993, girls were 53% more likely to be diagnosed with CD then boys. Diagnoses rose by 39% for boys and rose by 100% for girls between 1993 and 2012.  Surprisingly, the rate of diagnosis for children from birth to two remained consistent over this time while the rate of diagnosis tripled for children between 2-18. Finally, the study uncovered a 75% increase in diagnosis for children between 2008-2012 than in 1993-1997.  

In an effort to understand the cause of the increase in CD diagnosis, researchers compared the diagnostic rates between children of high socioeconomic status to those of low socioeconomic status.  They found “the rate of diagnosis being 80% higher in children from the least deprived areas than in those from the most-deprived areas.” The study concluded that it was likely that the increase in CD diagnosis is the result of better screening and CD awareness, and not the cause of a true increase in CD in children.

This study found things to celebrate as well as areas that need improvement. It highlights the major progress that increased CD awareness has caused. Thousands of children and young adults do not need to suffer from the multiple and often painful symptoms of CD as a result of their early diagnosis. It is disheartening, however, to see that theirs is such a disparity to access to health services and testing between the most affluent to the least affluent. Kay's is actively working towards spreading celiac awareness. If you would like to assist in our efforts, follow us on Facebook.  

Kay's provides healthily, high-protein, low-sugar snacks and cereals that are deliciously gluten free. Learn more about us here!

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