Monday, May 20, 2013

Gluten Sensitivity Research Findings – What Went Wrong?


Every once in a while a study is released that just makes no sense. Certainly researchers know the liability of a study that goes wrong or a hypothesis that just doesn't add up once the results are tallied. That’s just part of being a researcher. But other times a study is just poorly designed and executed.
Misleading results can become a problem when it gives people the wrong idea about their condition, in this case gluten sensitivity.

The Columbia University Celiac Disease Center, headed by Dr Peter Green, presented their research at the American College of Gastroenterology meeting. Their intention was to discover the percentage of the population suffering from gluten sensitivity. Their ‘findings’ were that 0.55% of the population suffered from this condition. That would mean that about half of the number who suffer from celiac disease, have gluten sensitivity. This goes in the face of research by Dr Alessio Fasano and his team from the Maryland Center for Celiac Research, who placed that estimate at 7% - fourteen times higher than the Columbia researchers.
That’s a rather large discrepancy. Who’s right? Well, let’s look at the design of this study and see what you think.

The study was performed by having people answer questions about whether or not they had ever been diagnosed with celiac disease. If they:
1.      Had been tested for celiac disease and the test was negative, and
2.      If they chose to follow a gluten-free diet despite that negative test, then
3.      They were labeled as ‘gluten sensitive’ by this study.

Of the almost 8,000 people who participated, 49 fit the criteria and from this was derived the 0.55% prevalence estimate.

Does that sound comprehensive to you?

Do you think there are people who have determined they are gluten sensitive who never received a celiac test?

Do you think that there are likely many people who are gluten sensitive and have no idea that they are, and therefore have never been tested for anything relating to gluten?

Does it seem wrong that absolutely zero diagnostic tests were performed on these people? I would wager that many hundreds of those 8,000 individuals likely fit the gluten sensitivity diagnosis. But, once again, they remain undiagnosed.

Knowing that we are TERRIBLE at diagnosing celiac disease and that a full 95 to 97% of those suffering with the disease remain undiagnosed, does it make sense to predicate a study on only those who HAVE been tested and are found negative?

If you think the study is poor, you’re in most excellent company. Dr Alessio Fasano stated that the study was “extremely biased” and “not informative”.

Why do I bring this up? Because it concerns me that anyone hearing this study result and wondering if they are truly gluten sensitive, might abandon the idea because the condition seems so rare. It does often happen that I meet people who ‘know’ they react to gluten but go back to eating it because they have received no formal confirmation and it’s ‘easier’ to just eat it again.

It might ‘seem’ easier, but living with poor health and avoidable disease is anything BUT easy!
Don’t listen to the results of this study. Gluten sensitivity research is in its infancy. We have much to learn. But I can guarantee you this – the incidence of gluten sensitivity is NOT less than the incidence of celiac disease. And, it’s likely 10x or more. Time will tell, but I’ve been working with patients for a long time and I know how often I find it and how often it creates miraculous changes in a patient’s health status.

Do you or someone you know suffer from poor health? Would you like to find out if gluten is playing a role in your health problems? If so, consider calling us for a free health analysis (408-733-0400) – we’re here to help!

Our destination clinic treats patients from across the country and internationally. You don’t need to live locally to receive assistance.

I look forward to hearing from you.


To your good health,
Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN
Gluten Free Doctor of the Year 2013
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”

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