Celiac disease linked to heart problems

Inflammation common to digestive disorder and coronary artery disease

WASHINGTON — People with celiac disease appear to have an increased risk of heart disease. Physicians Rama Gajulapalli and Deepak Pattanshetty of the Cleveland Clinic analyzed a database of more than 22 million people and, using medical coding, identified 24,530 with celiac disease. Probing the records further, they found that 9.5 percent of the celiac patients had coronary artery disease, compared with 5.6 percent of those without celiac. In people over age 65, 28.6 percent of celiac patients but only 13.2 percent of the others had coronary artery disease.

Celiac disease is an aberrant immune reaction to consumed gluten, which is found in wheat, rye and barley. Celiac is marked by inflammation of the small intestine, poor nutrient absorption and tissue damage. Inflammation, which also contributes to cardiovascular risk, might underlie the nearly doubled risk, Gajulapalli reported March 29 at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology.  

Jeffrey Kuvin, a physician at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, noted that inflammatory bowel disease, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis are also inflammatory immune-related diseases that have been linked to increased heart disease risk. “With these data, we can add celiac disease to this list,” he said. 

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