12 January - 20 June 2016

Fourfold increase in coeliac disease incidence in UK over 20 years

21 May 14

A new study reports that the number of people in the UK diagnosed with coeliac disease increased fourfold between 1990 and 2011. The recent research - funded by Coeliac UK and CORE - involved a large population-based study across all regions of the UK. The team used electronic medical data from between 1990 and 2011, to determine variations in incidence and prevalence of coeliac disease by age, sex, geographical region, and calendar time over the 22-year period. They found that diagnosis rates varied from area to area, with a higher incidence in more affluent places; the researchers suggested, however, that this was most likely due to increased likelihood of diagnosis in these areas, rather than a higher proportion of coeliac disease sufferers in these particular geographical areas.

The most striking finding, however, was that overall UK-wide prevalence of the disease increased from 5.2 per 100,000 in 1990 to 19.1 per 100,000 in 2011. Previous research has suggested around 1% of the population would test positive for the condition; however the data from this study suggests only 0.25% are diagnosed, meaning that many sufferers could be unaware of their condition.

Coeliac disease is an immune reaction to eating gluten - a protein found in wheat, barley and rye - and the only treatment is a gluten-free diet for life. This study is the largest population-based study of the occurrence of coeliac disease to date, providing accurate incidence and prevalence rates for all ages and across a longer calendar period than has previously been reported. In response to the results demonstrating increased incidence of coeliac disease, Sarah Sleet, CEO of Coeliac UK, stated that industry needed to not only continue improving the quality of gluten-free bakery products, but also to reduce their cost. [BBC, BakeryandSnacks, Examiner]

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