Two-thirds (67%) of Hispanic Americans still lack information and awareness of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, according to a nationwide benchmark survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Beyond Celiac. Renowned opera tenor and Beyond Celiac Ambassador Arturo Chacón-Cruz, a native of Sonora, Mexico, wants to change these statistics.
Chacón-Cruz, who along with his mother and son has celiac disease, wants to help other Hispanics know the symptoms and process for getting diagnosed and treated for celiac disease. The survey showed that only 36% of Hispanic Americans know that half or more of people with celiac disease are undiagnosed, and as few as 21% know that celiac disease often runs in families.
The only current way to manage celiac disease is through a strict gluten-free diet – foods free from wheat, rye and barley. If left untreated, celiac disease, a serious autoimmune condition that causes damage to the small intestine resulting in debilitating symptoms, can lead to a number of long-term health problems, including infertility and some types of cancer. Celiac disease affects one in 133 Americans.
“We know many in our community lack awareness about celiac disease, and I hope to change that so everyone with celiac disease can receive the diagnosis and treatment they deserve,” said Chacón-Cruz. “Food is such a big part of Hispanic and Latino culture and heritage. We can still live a full life and enjoy a shared meal with family and friends, we just need to change the way we eat until there is a cure.”
According to the survey, only about half (52%) of Hispanics know that following a strict gluten-free diet is the way someone with celiac disease can control it.
“Celiac disease is a misunderstood and misdiagnosed disease,” Beyond Celiac CEO Alice Bast said. “We believe it’s important that all Americans become more aware of celiac disease and its symptoms so they get an accurate diagnosis and the treatment needed to live a healthy life.”
“I was so sick before I got diagnosed, my life was difficult as a professional opera singer who has to spend so much time traveling for work,” said Chacón-Cruz. “Now knowing that I have to stay strictly gluten-free, I have a different challenge with all the travel I do, but it’s also hard for people like my mother and son who aren’t traveling as much. Ultimately I hope we can find a cure so these problems don’t exist.”
Chacón-Cruz began partnering with Beyond Celiac in 2019 to help the organization raise awareness and to generate support for research for treatments and a cure. Using his platform in the world of opera, he has raised visibility and is featured in a video in which he tells his story and why he is so passionate about the work of Beyond Celiac.
A report on the survey results, The Mystery of Celiac Disease: The Need for Greater Awareness and Accelerating the Quest for a Cure can be found online at 2022 Beyond Celiac Survey Report. The report also presents the facts about the disease, and outlines how Beyond Celiac is taking steps to accelerate the quest for a cure.