A new report shows that most Americans who suffer from celiac disease, a digestive disorder that spawned the gluten-free diet trend, don't know they have it.
According to a study led by the Mayo Clinic, 1.4 million of the estimated 1.8 million Americans with the disease are unaware that the gut pain associated with consuming wheat, rye and barley-based products is actually due to celiac disease.
Meanwhile, the latest dietary fad popularized by celebrities like Miley Cyrus, Gwyneth Paltrow and Victoria Beckham is followed by 1.6 million Americans who don't actually clinically suffer from the condition and have no medical reason for doing so, says a study published July 31 in The American Journal of Gastroenterology.
The overriding significance of the study results? Consumers should consult their physician for advice and diagnosis, researchers say.
"There are a lot of people on a gluten-free diet, and it's not clear what the medical need for that is," says study co-author Dr. Joseph Murray. "It is important if someone thinks they might have celiac disease that they be tested first before they go on the diet."
Researchers pegged the rate of celiac disease in the US at 0.71 percent, or 1 in 141, similar to rates in several European countries. They also found that the condition is much more prevalent among Caucasians compared to minority groups.
Statistics were gleaned after researchers analyzed blood samples from 7,798 participants in the 2009-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in the US. Interviews from a population survey conducted at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were also used.
Meanwhile, a small sample study conducted out of Columbia University Medical Center in New York suggested that rates of celiac disease were higher among women with unexplained infertility.