The rate of diagnosed Celiac disease today is about 1 out of every 100 people. Ten percent of those have type 1 diabetes. Ten percent of those with type 1 diabetes also have Celiac disease, though about half of the time there are no symptoms present to suggest that the disease is present. Screening upon diagnosis is important as it may the only way to discover the hidden disease. There may be difficulty controlling the blood sugar if undiagnosed Celiac is present.
Deborah Smyth, BSc, of England’s University of Cambridge — studied the DNA of more than 22,000 Europeans, including 8,000 type 1 diabetes patients and 2,560 people with celiac disease. Her team focused on specific gene variants linked to type 1 diabetes and others tied to celiac disease. The goal was to see whether there was any overlap between the two diseases. It turns out that four celiac disease variants were linked to type 1 diabetes, and two type 1 diabetes variants were tied to celiac disease.
As both of these diseases are genetically inherited & autoimmune in nature, there has been a suspected link for a long time. Robert Plenge, MD, PhD, of the rheumatology division of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston points out that “some combination of alleles (together with environmental factors and chance) lead to celiac disease, and others lead to type 1 diabetes” and picking apart those patterns “should lead to new insights in disease.”
The study shows genetic overlap among celiac disease and type 1 diabetes. But Smyth and her colleagues are also looking at environmental factors, especially exposure to gluten which celiacs can’t handle. The team is calling for further studies to investigate if gluten may be an factor in type 1 diabetes, leading to compromised function of the immune system within the digestive tract and the immune function of the pancreas.
Should you suspect you have celiac disease, always see your doctor before making any adjustments to your diet. Removing gluten before any testing is done will compromise the results.