New research has revealed some surprising findings about who develops celiac disease in the United States.
The study found that it’s most common among people whose ancestors came from India’s Punjab region. Previously, experts thought celiac mostly affected white people with European ancestry.
Celiac also seems to affect men and women equally, regardless of ethnicity, the researchers said.
“It is now recognized as one of the most common hereditary disorders worldwide,” said the study author, Dr. Benjamin Lebwohl, in a news release from the American Gastroenterological Association. Lebwohl is an assistant professor of medicine and epidemiology at the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University Medical Center, in New York City.
Celiac is an immune-based disorder that causes damage to the small intestine if genetically susceptible people eat foods containing gluten, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation (CDF). Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, as well as foods containing these substances.
Celiac disease affects about 1.8 million Americans, the researchers said.
But the disease is often misdiagnosed, the CDF said. The diagnosis is confirmed through a biopsy of tissue from the small intestine, the researchers said.
“Our findings help shed light on the distribution of celiac disease in the U.S. and will aid gastroenterologists in diagnosing their patients,” Lebwohl said.