Gluten intolerance, or celiac disease, is a chronic inflammatory condition of the small bowel.
It is caused by an exaggerated immune response to the gluten found in wheat, barley, and rye.
It affects up to 1% of the population, and has been linked to several autoimmune diseases.
Gluten intolerance has also been linked with an increased likelihood of lymph gland cancer and complications of pregnancy.
| Poor vitamin D intake due to gluten free diets may explain the findings|
Dr Jonas Ludvigsson and colleagues from Sweden analyzed hospital discharge records from 1964 to 2003.
The research team evaluated diagnoses of celiac disease and tuberculosis (TB).
During this period, more than 15,500 people were diagnosed with celiac disease, and almost 33% had been diagnosed as adults.
The researchers based their final analysis on 14,335 people, who were compared with almost 70,000 other people, who were free of the disease.
The team found that a prior diagnosis of celiac disease almost quadrupled the chances of active tuberculosis infection in both sexes, overall.
However, the researchers observed that a diagnosis in childhood tripled the chances.
In a separate analysis, the team looked at the risk of subsequently developing celiac disease after a diagnosis of tuberculosis in the same group of people.
This showed that a prior diagnosis of tuberculosis more than doubled the risks of celiac disease.
The link between tuberculosis and gluten intolerance was not influenced by levels of poverty or deprivation with which tuberculosis is normally associated.
The researchers noted that poor intake of vitamin D and calcium in people with gluten intolerance may help explain the findings.
Dr Ludvigsson's team suggests, “The poor intake of vitamin D and calcium may be as a result of both intestinal malabsorption and the nutritional deficiencies of a gluten free diet.”
“Vitamin D is a key player in marshalling the immune response against tuberculosis infection.”