Coeliac disease still linked to early death

Coeliac disease can cause several long-term complications that have been previously shown to impact life expectancy. However, in light of improved rates of early diagnosis and wider availability of gluten-free foods to help manage the condition, a recent study conducted in Sweden looked at more recent life expectancy outcomes in the hope they had improved.

Data for almost 50,000 patients with biopsy-diagnosed coeliac disease was collected from pathology departments across Sweden. All patients were diagnosed between 1969 and 2017. With this data linked to the national healthcare registry, researchers from Karolinska Institutet and Columbia University in the U.S. were able to look at the risk of death compared to matched controls without coeliac disease.

Compared with controls, overall mortality reportedly increased by 21 per cent in those with coeliac disease. The relative increase in mortality risk was present in all age groups and greatest in those diagnosed in the age range of 18 to 39 years old.

The increased risk of death with coeliac disease was due to cardiovascular disease, cancer and respiratory disease. Compared with controls, the overall mortality risk was greatest in the first year after diagnosis but the risk increase persisted beyond 10 years after diagnosis. The increased risk was present also in patients diagnosed during recent years (2010-2017), during which time there has been a rise in early diagnosis and availability of gluten-free foods.

A media release with further details of the study is available on the Karolinska Institutet website.

Journal Reference: Lebwohl et al. 2020. JAMA, Vol. 323 (13) pp.1277 DOI: 10.1001/jama.2020.1943