The number of celiac disease diagnoses has increased in the recent past and according to screening studies.
The total prevalence of the disorder is around 1%.
Dr Mäki and colleagues from Finland established whether the increased number of celiac disease cases reflects a true rise in disease frequency.
The team determined the total prevalence of celiac disease in 2 population-based samples representing the Finnish adult population.
The research team obtained samples of 8000 participants from 1978 to 1980.
These were compared with samples of 8028 participants from 2000 to 2001.
|The prevalence of earlier unrecognized cases increased from 1% to 2%|
|Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics|
Both clinically-diagnosed celiac disease patients and previously unrecognized cases identified by serum endomysial antibodies were taken into account.
The researchers diagnosed only 2 patients on clinical grounds in 1978 to 1980, in contrast to 32 in 2000 to 2001.
The team found that the prevalence of earlier unrecognized cases increased statistically significantly from 1% to 2% during the same period.
This yields a total prevalence of celiac disease of 1% in 1978 to 1980, and 2% in 2000 to 2001.
Dr Mäki's team concluded, "The total prevalence of celiac disease seems to have doubled in Finland during the last 2 decades."
"The increase cannot be attributed to the better detection rate."
"The environmental factors responsible for the increasing prevalence of the disorder are issues for further studies."