Rising celiac disease prompts new GF products

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 12th October 2010

Naturally Good Bakehouse CookiesSince 1974, in the U.S., the incidence of the disorder has doubled every 15 years. Researchers at the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research recently found that the number of people carrying markers for celiac disease increased steadily, going from 1 in 501 people in 1974, to 1 in 219 in 1989. In 2003, the Celiac Research Center placed the number of people with the disease at 1 in 133.

Celiac disease is triggered by consuming gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Classic symptoms include diarrhea, intestinal bloating and stomach cramps. Left untreated, it can lead to the malabsorption of nutrients, damage to the small intestine and other medical complications.

Australian manufacturers are rising to the challenge of increasing celiac diagnoses by tapping new markets for the restricted diets of sufferers.

“It’s not enough to just sell cookies,” said Connie Manglaviti, marketing manager at Australia’s Naturally Good, “but offer many other ways to add variety to what otherwise can be a very boring diet.  We’ve put a delicious Tiramisu recipe using Choc Crunch Bakehouse Cookies, a delicious cheesecake that uses Coconut Crunch Bakehouse Cookies, and other recipes on our website so that our customers can enjoy delicious desserts without adverse reactions to gluten and other allergens.”

“We are passionate about delivering great taste and high quality products to coeliacs and their families, and have recently started exporting to Dubai and Malaysia, where the incidence of these food intolerances is also growing,” Manglaviti said.

Research suggests that not only is celiac disease on the rise, but that new diagnoses are on the rise among the elderly, suggesting that the disease can begin later in life, contradicting the previous view that celiac disease develops in childhood.

“You’re not necessarily born with celiac disease,” says Carlo Catassi, MD, of the Universita Politecnica delle Marche in Italy, lead author on a study into celiac disease in the elderly and co-director of the Center for Celiac Research. “Our findings show that some people develop celiac disease quite late in life.”