One in every 133 Americans, or three million Americans, have celiac disease, although many people who have the disease have not been officially diagnosed (yet).
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease brought on by the consumption of gluten in people who are genetically predispositioned to the disease. (Read: What Causes Celiac Disease?)
Unfortunately, celiac disease is often misunderstood and not taken as serious as other conditions, mainly due to the prescription of a gluten-free diet for all celiac sufferers. Many misinformed (and ignorant) people have turned the gluten-free diet into a “fad” diet, and therefore a lot of people turn up their nose at ANYONE who is gluten-free, whether they are on the diet for medical reasons or not.
While many people have heard of celiac disease, and more people than ever before have been diagnosed with the condition, few people truly understand the depths of the disease. That’s why I’m sharing these 12 interesting facts about celiac disease with you today.
12 Interesting Facts about Celiac Disease
In honor of the kick-off of Celiac Disease Awareness Month, I would like to pass along 12 interesting facts about celiac disease to help you better understand the plight of a celiac disease sufferer.
(1) The Sahrawi people of the Western Sahara have the highest incidence of celiac disease by geography
According to the Dr. Schar Institute, the highest incidence of celiac disease is the Sahrawi people of Western Sahara in Africa, with 5-6 percent of the adult population afflicted with the disorder and 6-7 percent of children. The reasons for the high celiac rates is unknown, however, some experts believe it could be the change in the Sahrawi’s diets, which was once camel milk and meat, and is now more European (as a result of the country’s Spanish colonization) with a drastic consumption of cereal products.
The second highest incidence of celiac disease in the the world is in Finland and Sweden, where 2-3 percent of the population is afflicted with the disorder, higher than the worldwide average of 1 percent.
Along these same lines, another interesting fact about celiac disease is that people from the Punjab region of India constitute the ethnic group in the United States with the highest prevalence of celiac disease, according to research published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.
(2) Celiac patients are not “allergic” to gluten
Many people believe people with celiac disease are “allergic” to gluten, however, this is not the case at all. Someone with celiac disease has an autoimmune disease in which the body mistakenly produces antibodies against itself upon the consumption of gluten. However, someone with a wheat allergy would be allergic to wheat AND someone can have a gluten sensitivity, which is a very real and serious condition as well. It’s just not an “allergy,” per se.