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Celiac Disease Can Develop at Any Age

Study Shows Disease Can Occur in People Who Previously Tested Negative

Losing Tolerance to Gluten continued...

The new findings may open up some new avenues for future research by allowing the investigators to work backward and determine how people can tolerate gluten for so many years, and then develop celiac disease.

"The prevalence of celiac disease appears to be increasing," says Mark Sapienza, MD, associate chief of gastroenterology at Englewood Hospital Center in New Jersey.  “We need to be more aware about celiac risk in older populations."

"People may be losing their tolerance to gluten for some reason," he says. "This may be due to something in our food supply or in the environment. Just because you were screened for celiac disease 30 or 40 years ago, doesn’t that you can't develop it."

If you have risks for celiac disease and some symptoms, talk to your doctor about a celiac panel, Sapienza advises.

"The new findings highlight the importance of looking for celiac because it is more common and untreated, it causes a lot of problems," agrees Barry Zingler, MD, chief of gastoenterology at Englewood Hospital Center. Untreated celiac disease increases the risk for the brittle bone disease osteoporosis due to the body's inability to absorb calcium and vitamin D, fatigue, and certain cancers.

Not so fast, says Mel Heyman, MD, MPH, the Anita Ow Wing Endowed Chair and Professor of Pediatrics, chief of pediatric gastroenterology, hepatology, and nutrition at the University of California, San Francisco Benioff Children's Hospital.

Heyman tells WebMD that the blood test for celiac disease is not fail-safe. "We know that the test is not perfect, so some of these people could have been a false negative [in the first part of the study], which is why sometimes we go on to do a biopsy."

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