No Symptoms? If You’re at Risk for Celiac, Gluten-Free Diet May Still Help |

No Symptoms? If You’re at Risk for Celiac, Gluten-Free Diet May Still Help

May 16, 2011

No Symptoms? If You’re at Risk for Celiac, Gluten-Free Diet May Still Help


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New study offers more reasons to screen for celiac in relatives, even when symptoms are absent.

Celiac disease is a hereditary disorder, so when an individual is diagnosed with the condition, it is recommended that their first-degree relatives get tested. Now, a new study shows why that screening process can be so important.

Finnish researchers screened more than 3,000 individuals who had a relative with celiac disease. The study participants were healthy and did not have any symptoms of celiac disease. From the group, researchers selected 40 individuals who had a positive blood test for celiac disease, and put some on a gluten-free diet while the remainder stayed on a normal gluten-containing diet.

Compared to those who followed a normal diet, participants who switched to a gluten-free diet reported better gastrointestinal health and improved well-being overall, according to the study. Despite their lack of symptoms from the outset, these individuals appeared to have a “gluten-dependent disorder,” the researchers said.

“Based on our results, an intensified screening of at-risk populations of celiac disease is encouraged,” lead researcher Dr. Katri Kaukinen told HealthDay, “However, more research needs to be done before expanding screening to the general population.”

Previous research has found that up to 38% of diagnosed celiacs are asymptomatic ,1,2 and the prevalence of disease in individuals who are first degree relatives of a person with celiac is between 5% and 22%.3

If you or a family member has celiac disease, please encourage your relatives to get tested for celiac disease, regardless of whether they have symptoms. To educate your family and friends about celiac disease, request NFCA’s Do I Have Celiac informational brochures.
Submit a Brochure Request.


1. Rostom A, et al. Gastroenterology. 2006;131:1981-2002.

2. National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Conference Statement on Celiac Disease, June 28-30, 2004. Gastroenterology. 2005;128 (4 suppl 1):S1-S9.

3. Fasano A, et al. Arch Intern Med. 2003;163:286-292.


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