Celiac Disease Rampant In China

Celiac disease is more common than has been reported in China, according to a new study by researchers from Nanchang University.

AsianScientist (Dec. 9, 2013) – Celiac disease is more common than has been reported in China, according to a new study by researchers from Nanchang University.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder caused by genetically susceptible individuals consuming food and drinks made from wheat, barley or rye and therefore containing gluten. Gluten proteins can induce inflammation in the small intestine, hindering the uptake of nutrients, and can also disturb the normal functioning of other organs. In the Western world, prevalence of the disease is between 0.5 and 2 percent of the population.

Despite the fact that China is the world’s largest wheat producer and has a high and rapidly increasing consumption of wheat and gluten-containing products, celiac disease was considered to be rare in China and had not been studied thoroughly.

Chinese and Dutch scientists found that wheat consumption is increasing rapidly in China due to urbanization and westernization of the traditional Chinese diet but, until recently, the status of celiac disease had not been a major research subject.

They carried out a systematic review and meta-analysis of Chinese and international literature, identifying the number of definite or suspected cases of the disease reported, the frequency of the major predisposing HLA genes seen in various Chinese populations, and the amount of wheat and gluten consumed.

The data strongly suggest that the prevalence of celiac disease is much higher in China than previously thought. The study also suggests that in the northwestern regions of China, where there is the highest influx of Western (Caucasian) genes and wheat consumption, celiac disease will be more frequent and have prevalence similar to those seen in Western societies.

The disease prevalence is also likely to rise as the Chinese adopt a more Western lifestyle, with increased consumption of wheat and gluten-containing products, and especially in urban environments. As China is at risk of celiac disease becoming a common disease, the authors say that strategies for prevention should be developed to guarantee the health of Chinese individuals.

Results of this study, which serves as a reference point for celiac disease in China, is published in the journal PLOS ONE.

The article can be found at: Yuan J et al. (2013) The Tip of the “Celiac Iceberg” in China: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.

Source: Nanchang University; Photo: euthman/Flickr/CC.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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