Around ninety percent of Indians are all but unaware of celiac disease claims a panel of experts at the recent International Symposium on Wheat Related Disorders (ISWD) hosted by the Celiac Society of India (CSI) on January 12, 2019. This is despite a potential eight million Indians suffering from the condition.
Indians are unaware, but may be at the highest risk of developing the condition
Many experts have previously noted that Indians may hold a genetic susceptibility to celiacs disease. This knowledge was expanded upon at the symposium.
Experts have isolated a specific gene type called DQA1 or B1. This gene in turn expresses the genes DQ2 or DQ8, which have been implicated in the immune reaction towards wheat products.
It was noted, however, that the DQA1 gene alone is not capable of fully explaining the presence of the disease. The panel cited a 2015 study that revealed other gene types can also inhibit the disease.
Other factors such as additives and pesticides have been suggested as potentially playing a role in the swelling numbers of people being diagnosed with celiac disease. Numbers in India have been said to have quadrupled since the 1960s.
This may not be due to more people developing the disease. Rather, this may be due to increased awareness of the condition and increasing levels of access to medicines leading to more people who would otherwise slip under the radar being diagnosed.
This may be best demonstrated by the fact that diagnosis rates are still said to be very low, with some suggesting diagnosis rates are as low as seven to eight percent. The implication of this is that the actual numbers of people in India with celiac disease is far higher than is currently projected. This situation may be rectified as awareness grows.
What is celiac disease?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition which involves an immune reaction to a protein commonly found in wheat, barley and rye products known as gluten. This immune reaction results in inflammation of the small intestine, which can result in digestive issues and problems such as diarrhoea and anaemia.
Untreated celiac disease can cause a number of long term health conditions. These mostly stem from continued inflammation of the small intestine inhibiting the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. A prominent health concern in those with untreated celiac disease is osteoporosis. Due to a limited ability to absorb calcium, bone density is adversely affected, leading to a increased risk of bone fractures and breaks. This can cause disability, particularly in later life.