* Blood samples from '50s show it isn't just improved diagnosis, and researchers wonder if diet is a factor.
By Josephine Marcotty
Star Tribune - MN, July 1, 2009
Straight to the Source
A Minnesota study using frozen blood samples taken from Air Force recruits 50 years ago has found that intolerance of wheat gluten, a debilitating digestive condition, is four times more common today than it was in the 1950s.
The findings contradict the prevailing belief that a sharp increase in diagnoses of wheat gluten intolerance has come about because of greater awareness and detection, and raises questions about whether dramatic changes in the American diet have played a role.
"It's become much more common," said Dr. Joseph Murray, the Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist who led the study. No one knows why, he said, but one reason might be rapid changes in eating habits and food processing over the last half century.
"Fifty years is way too fast for human genetics to have changed," Murray said. "Which tells us it has to be a pervasive environmental influence."
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota who conducted the study also found that the recruits who had the undiagnosed digestive disorder, called celiac disease, also had a four-fold increase in the risk of death.
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