The number of Americans diagnosed with celiac disease has quadrupled since the 1950s, and the condition "is emerging as a substantial public health concern," Mayo Clinic researchers warn. People who had the gluten-intolerance disease and didn’t know it were four times more likely to have died during the past few decades than those without it, Reuters reports.
Europe has seen comparable increases. “Getting more patients and health professionals to consider the possibility of celiac disease is important,” says the senior author of a new report, who notes that the soaring numbers may correlate with environmental circumstances—perhaps including the “hygiene hypothesis,” which says less germy lifestyles may have boosted allergies. The way food is processed and how we eat it may also be factors.