TUESDAY, Sept. 15, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- People with milder symptoms of celiac disease face a slightly higher risk of dying than other people, a new study finds.
Cancer and heart disease were the main causes of death in the patients studied, and the risk was higher in people who had had small-intestinal biopsies in childhood, the researchers found.
Celiac disease affects about 1 percent of people in the Western world, the researchers said, and it is triggered by exposure to gluten, a protein found in barley, wheat and rye. It frequently causes diarrhea and weight loss.
According to the study, which appears in the Sept. 16 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, celiac disease is thought to be connected to higher risk of disease, but less is known about "nonspecific small-intestinal inflammation without villous atrophy," a kind abnormality.
Swedish researchers found the risk of death increased by 39 percent in patients with celiac disease and 35 percent with latent celiac disease.
The research "reinforces the importance of celiac disease as a diagnosis that should be sought by physicians. It also suggests that more attention should be given to the lesser degrees of intestinal inflammation and gluten sensitivity," wrote Dr. Peter H. R. Green, of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, in a commentary.
Learn more about celiac disease from the federal government.