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Celiac disease may be more common than we think.

Celiac disease may be more common than we think.

According to current statistics from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA), approximately 1 percent of the population suffers from celiac disease. Defined as an autoimmune digestive disorder by the NFCA, this condition impairs healthy nutrient absorption and is characterized by a pronounced gluten sensitivity. While it is well-known that children with Down syndrome are particularly at risk for this condition, diagnoses of celiac disease have risen as the general population has learned more about its existence and symptoms.

A recent Australian study indicated that celiac disease could be more common than currently believed. The research involved 2,500 participants from Victoria, and "combined traditional antibody testing (measuring the immune response to gluten) with an assessment of specific genetic risk markers," a press release from Australia's Walter and Eliza Hall Institute states.

Using this combination of testing methods, the scientists discovered that considerably more Australians were at risk for celiac disease than national estimates had indicated. In Australia, it was believed that no more than one in 100 men and women had the disorder, but the new study indicated rates of one in 80 and one in 60, respectively. 

An additional benefit of this new identification method is that it may alleviate the need for invasive examining for people who test positive for certain antibodies but don't actually have celiac disease. This study also highlight the genetic element behind celiac disease, which could also aid in further research and treatment. 

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