Celiac disease is an immune disorder that triggers severe gut reactions, including diarrhea and bloating, to foods containing gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Now new research has linked an increase risk for celiac disease in young people to toxic chemicals commonly found in pesticides, nonstick cookware and fast food packaging, and fire retardants, among other sources.
Researchers analyzed levels of toxic chemicals in the blood of 30 children and young adults, ages 3 to 21, who were newly diagnosed with celiac disease at NYU Langone Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital. Test results were compared with those from 60 other young people of similar age, gender, and race.
The results of the scientific study revealed that children and young adults with high blood levels of pesticides, including high levels of pesticide-related chemicals called dichlorodiphenyldichlorethylenes (DDEs), were twice as likely to be newly diagnosed with celiac disease as those without high levels.
Gender differences were also revealed for celiac disease related to toxic exposures. For females, who make up the majority of celiac cases, higher-than-normal pesticide exposure meant they were at least eight times more likely to become gluten intolerant.
Young females with elevated levels of nonstick chemicals, known as perflouoroalkyls, or PFAs, including products like Teflon and fast food and processed food packaging, were five to nine times more likely to have celiac disease.
Young males were twice as likely to be diagnosed with Celiac disease if they had elevated blood levels of fire-retardant chemicals, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs.
The Toxic Chemical-Celiac Link
People with genes HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8 are known to be at greater risk of being diagnosed with celiac disease. But these new findings indicate that autoimmune disorders may not just be genetic, but also environmental. How would this work? All of the toxic chemicals linked in the study to increased risk for Celiac disease are endocrine disruptors, known to disrupt animal and human hormone levels, which are key to controlling both sexual development and immune defenses against infection.
Journal Reference: Abigail Gaylord, Leonardo Trasande, Kurunthachalam Kannan, Kristen M. Thomas, Sunmi Lee, Mengling Liu, Jeremiah Levine. Persistent organic pollutant exposure and celiac disease: A pilot study. Environmental Research, 2020; 109439 DOI: 10.1016/j.envres.2020.109439
Post: AS/Dr. Scott