Gluten intolerance in Finland has doubled

Mar 05, 2010

The occurrence of gluten intolerance in the Finnish population has doubled in the past twenty years. In the early 1980s, about one per cent of adults in Finland had gluten intolerance, but the figure has since gone up to two per cent by the 2000s.

"We've already seen a similar trend emerge earlier on where allergies and certain are concerned. Screening has shown that gluten intolerance occurs in 1.5 per cent of Finnish children and 2.7 per cent of the elderly. The higher figure for older people is explained by the fact that the condition becomes more frequent with age," says Professor Markku Mäki. Mäki has set up an internationally acclaimed research team on gluten intolerance, developing screening tests for gluten intolerance. Mäki is head of a research project in the Academy of Finland's Research Programme on Nutrition, Food and Health (ELVIRA).

According to Mäki, gluten intolerance may often be symptom-free, and people may be unaware that they have the condition if their symptoms are mild or atypical. Three out of four people with gluten intolerance have not been diagnosed, which also means that they are as yet going without treatment.

Better diagnosis methods needed

Mäki's research team has concluded that the criteria for diagnosing gluten intolerance must be rewritten, since early stages of the condition do not meet the criteria, yet is important to treat. The current criteria for diagnosis focus on damage to the intestinal villi and the small intestine, established in a tissue sample from the small intestine. However, early stages of gluten intolerance are not identifiable from tissue samples.

People may suffer from gluten intolerance, yet have no intestinal symptoms. They may, however, have symptoms unrelated to the intestinal tract. Serious problems with nutrient absorption have become rare; instead, sufferers generally have anaemia due to iron deficiency or folic acid deficiency as their main symptom. If researchers manage to develop sensitive, accurate antibody tests, it will become possible to identify people with early stages of gluten intolerance, who are in need of further treatment. At present, there is no single test to reliably identify early stages of gluten intolerance.

Sufferers are hoping for a diagnosis method that does not involve endoscopy. Researchers are hard at work, looking for new and better markers for gluten intolerance to allow for easier diagnosis of the condition.

Patients are also hoping for an 'anti-gluten pill'. Mäki says that some form of pill with enzymes that break down gluten may prove feasible in the future.

Explore further: When words fail, a highly specialized center helps patients find their voices

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Vaccine trial flags challenge to celiac disease

Apr 03, 2009

An effective clinical treatment for coeliac disease (or gluten intolerance) is the ultimate objective of WEHI clinician scientist, Dr Bob Anderson. This month will see the beginning of a Phase 1 clinical trial for an experimental ...

No link found between autism and celiac disease

May 01, 2007

Contrary to previous studies, autistic children are no more likely than other children to have celiac disease, according to new research that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 59th Annual Meeting ...

More Chinese wheat gluten is recalled

Apr 04, 2007

A U.S. pharmaceutical and nutritional chemicals company has recalled all possibly contaminated wheat gluten it has imported from a Chinese supplier.

Recommended for you

Dutch Ebola aid ship finishes West Africa tour

1 hour ago

The European Union says a Dutch aid ship is finishing its tour of the three West African countries hardest hit by the Ebola epidemic, docking in Liberia to deliver supplies including medical equipment.

ECOWAS trains health workers to fight Ebola

4 hours ago

West Africa's regional bloc ECOWAS said on Sunday it will train 150 health workers this week to help tackle the deadly Ebola disease in the worst hit countries; Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

US looking past Ebola to prepare for next outbreak

13 hours ago

The next Ebola or the next SARS. Maybe even the next HIV. Even before the Ebola epidemic in West Africa is brought under control, U.S. public health officials are girding for the next health disaster.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.