Estimated prevalence of nonceliac gluten sensitivity

2017-05-23
Paul Moayyedi

What is the estimated prevalence of nonceliac gluten sensitivity in the general population?

Paul Moayyedi: It is an interesting question, because the disease itself has a very loose definition. It refers basically to people who have any symptoms who go on a gluten-free diet and feel that the symptoms have improved. If there is rigorous testing that shows they do not have celiac disease, then they have nonceliac gluten sensitivity.

The current prevalence depends on the country and probably is highest in the United States, at around 5% to 10% of the population. That having been said, the very definition requires you to go on a gluten-free diet, and a lot of people with symptoms do not go on a gluten-free diet, so we do not know. The true prevalence – with that definition – in the population is probably much higher. The problem is that very definition because this is not an objective test – it may be nothing to do with gluten at all, it may just be a placebo effect, or regression to the mean that they feel better on a diet, and the diet actually has nothing to do with their symptoms. This is a challenge of this area at the moment.

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