Celiac Disease Epidemic?

A recent prospective study (E Liu et al. Gastroenterol 2017; 152: 1329-36) reports a very high rate of celiac disease in Denver.

The authors collected data on HAL-DR, DQ genotypes in 31,766 infants.  Among the various genotypes, a total of 1339 were followed .for 20 years (starting in 1993). The key outcomes were development of celiac disease autoimmunity (CDA) indicated by persistence of anti-TTG IgA antibody for at least 3 months or development of celiac disease (CD) with biopsies showing at least Marsh 2 histologic lesions.  The authors weighted the genotypes based on their frequency in the population to develop estimates for the entire Denver population.

Key findings:

  • 66 (of 1339) developed both CD and CDA. Another 46 developed only CDA. In this group of 46, seropositivity reverted to normal in 21 (46%).
  • Cumulative incidence for CDA at 5, 10 and 15 yrs of age: 2.4%, 4.3%, and 5.1% respectively
  • Cumulative incidence for CD at 5, 10 and 15 yrs of age: 1.6%, 2.8%, and 3.1% respectively

In their discussion, the authors note that “the 3.1% cumulative incidence of CD in Denver by age 15 is the highest to date in North America and is consistent with the 3% prevalence reported in Sweden for 12 year olds born during an ‘epidemic’ thought to be the result of early introduction…of gluten.” This theory about the epidemic is has been discounted: “timing of gluten introduction is not likely a factor” though the quantity could be a factor.

My take: These rates of CD and CDA are very high; ongoing data to determine the frequency in other parts of the country are needed.  This high rate of CD is clearly bad news for a lot of people, excepting those with commercial interests in gluten free products.


For 1-3 year old, AAP recommendation for maximum of 4 oz./day of 100% juice, and for 4-6 year olds a maximum of 6 oz/day.  For 7 years and older, AAP recommends a maximum of 8 oz/day