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Can Gluten Lead to an Earlier Death?

The idea for a 2009 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, was conceived, says the researchers, because “studies of mortality in celiac disease have not taken small-intestinal pathology into account.”


In other words, prior to this study, no researchers ever determined if the cause of death of people with celiac disease (1% of the U.S. population who have a critical autoimmune response to gluten) died prematurely because of inflammation in the gut or heart disease, also caused by inflammation.


The study was fairly large, with over 29,000 biopsies taken from 1969 to 2008. The tissues examined were from the duodenum and jejunum, which are two components of the small intestine.


Of the 29,000+ study subjects, over 3,000 died from full-blown celiac disease and almost another 3,000 from chronic inflammation of the intestine (but not necessarily 100% caused by celiac disease).


Although the study concludes, “Risk of death among patients with celiac disease, inflammation, or latent celiac disease is modestly increased,” there are two concerns.


First is that why risk even a modest increase in the likelihood of dying prematurely just to satisfy your cravings for gluten-filled breaks and other baked goods with wheat?


Second, if you look at the math of this study, the rates of mortality are far more higher than the researcher’s conclusion of ‘modestly increased.’


As Blood Sugar Solution author and functional medicine specialist Dr. Mark Hyman points out in this study, “There was a 39 percent increased risk of death in those with celiac disease, 72 percent increased risk in those with gut inflammation related to gluten, and 35 percent increased risk in those with gluten sensitivity but no celiac disease.”


It’s doubtful that Hyman would agree with the study’s authors that the risk of death is only modestly increased because of long-term gluten consumption.


Hyman’s own conclusion is that you don’t have to be in the tiny minority--1%--of people who have celiac disease to have intestinal damage from gluten, or even risk dying earlier.


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