English researchers examined the seroprevalence of undetected celiac disease (CD) in a large population sample from Cambridge, England.
The findings of the study were reported to the British Society of Gastroenterology Annual Meeting, held in Birmingham, England.
Recent studies, using various antibody tests to screen for undetected celiac disease, have shown that the prevalence of CD in several countries is between 0.5-1.0% of the population.
The Cambridge General Practice Health Study identified individuals aged 45-74 years from the age-sex registers of 11 general practices.
Each patients was invited for a health survey and a bone density scan between 1990-1995.
A total of 7550 serum samples were tested for antiendomysial antibody (EMA).
The seroprevalence of undetected CD in this general population sample was found to be 1.2% and did not vary significantly with age or sex.
EMA-positive subjects (n = 87) were 2.2 kg lighter and 0.1 cm shorter than average.
They were also more likely to have reported their general health as being ‘good to excellent' (odds ratio [OR] 1.8). In addition, they were less likely to report being a current or ex-smoker (OR for current versus never 0.4).
Undetected CD was associated with an 8% reduction in mean serum cholesterol. It was also associated with small reductions in mean hemoglobin, total protein, and corrected serum calcium.
The researchers observed that there was an increased prevalence of osteoporosis (OR 3.1) and of mild anemia (OR 4.6) in the EMA-positive individuals.
| Seroprevalence of undetected CD in England: 1.2%
Five EMA-positive patients (6%) had died at the time the study was conducted, a proportion similar to that in EMA-negative subjects (8%).
Dr J. West, of the University Hospital, Nottingham, England, said on behalf of the group, "Undetected celiac disease is likely to affect about 1% of the population of England, a figure similar to several other countries."
"Although affected subjects report no increase in ‘poor or moderate' health, they have an increased prevalence of osteoporosis and mild anemia," it was added.
"In contrast they have a favorable cardiovascular profile, which is likely to afford substantial protection from ischemic heart disease and stroke," it was concluded.