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February 23, 2000

Celiac Disease in the United States

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JAMA. 2000;283(8):994. doi:10.1001/jama.283.8.994

A new study has suggested that celiac disease is far more prevalent in the United States than previously believed.

The illness is a genetic disorder that results in gastrointestinal and other symptoms caused by sensitivity to gluten found in wheat, rye, or barley products. Studies have shown that about 1 in 250 people in Europe has the condition, but it was thought to affect fewer individuals, about 1 in 5000, in the United States.

After screening 1200 children and adolescents aged 6 months to 20 years with serologic tests and, in some cases, small intestine biopsy, researchers reported that the prevalence of celiac disease in these patients ranged between 1 in 57 and 1 in 33. "The condition is not rare in the United States and is as common as in Europe," said Ivor Hill, MD, lead author of the study and a pediatric gastroenterologist at Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

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