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Celiac Disease Triples Risk of Diabetes

Dec 26, 2006

Children with celiac disease have a higher likelihood of a subsequent diagnosis of type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes — approximately 3-fold higher — than the general population. Celiac disease is caused by allergy to gluten, found mainly in wheat. It can cause intestinal cramping, pain, bloating, diarrhea, and weight loss.

"We believe that celiac disease predisposes children to type 1 diabetes," lead author Dr. Jonas F. Ludvigsson told Diabetes in Control. "Some children receive a type 1 diabetes diagnosis prior to identification of celiac disease, suggesting that the celiac disease has been asymptomatic and ongoing for several years."

In a second study, also published in Diabetes Care this month, Danish researchers established that celiac disease is common in children with type 1 diabetes. In contrast, there has been little focus on patients in whom celiac disease is diagnosed prior to a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes.

In their study, Dr. Ludvigsson of the Orebro University Hospital and colleagues used the Swedish National inpatient register for the period between 1964 and 2003 to identify 9243 individuals with celiac disease diagnosed before age 20 years. They matched these patients to five reference subjects without celiac disease.

Children with celiac disease had a significantly higher risk of being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes before their 20th birthday. The hazard ratio for diabetes in children with celiac disease was 2.4.

The risk was further elevated when Ludvigsson’s group included patients diagnosed with diabetes at any time following the first symptoms of celiac disease, and when they only included children diagnosed with diabetes 1 to 5 years after their first diagnosis of celiac disease.

The researchers posit that the association of celiac disease with subsequent type 1 diabetes could be due to autoantibodies expressed after early exposure to gluten in their diet. Other explanations include a common genetic susceptibility.

The Swedish investigators found no strong evidence that an earlier introduction of a gluten-free diet in patients with celiac disease protects against type 1 diabetes.

"Most children being investigated for celiac disease have already had their glucose tested," Ludvigsson noted. "If blood tests or urinalysis have not been undertaken at diagnosis of celiac disease, I recommend that they be checked."

He continued, "In the absence of increased blood glucose levels or lack of urinary glucose, I do not recommend further testing for type 1 diabetes. However, I inform patients with newly diagnosed celiac disease about typical symptoms of type 1 diabetes and urge them to contact their doctor in case they suspect type 1 diabetes. Such symptoms may include increased thirst, increased urination, weight loss and fatigue."

Diabetes Care November, 2006.


Cherries Can Help to Fight Diabetes: Michigan State University researchers have reported that chemicals found in cherries may help fight diabetes. The researchers, said a group of naturally occurring chemicals found in abundance in cherries could help lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Lab tests using animal pancreatic cells showed the chemicals, called anthocyanins, increased insulin production by 50 percent. Anthocyanins are a class of plant pigments responsible for the color of many fruits, including cherries. Anthocyanins also are potent antioxidants — chemicals increasingly associated with a variety of health benefits, including protection against heart disease and cancer. The researchers said the compounds show promise for both prevention of type 2 or non-insulin-dependent diabetes, the most common type, and for helping control glucose levels in those who already have diabetes.

American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Jan 5, 2007