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Peter Gibson, MD

Research presented at Digestive Disease Week® (DDW) 2016 suggests that patients with celiac disease might be at a lower risk for other conditions, according to Peter Gibson, MD, professor and director of gastroenterology at The Alfred Hospital and Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.

Dr. Gibson reviewed research from several studies related to celiac disease during an AGA Focused Clinical Update session Sunday morning. One abstract he highlighted is a follow-up on previous studies suggesting that cardiovascular morbidity may be lower in people with celiac disease.

“This is quite a large study that analyzed more than 6,600 celiac patients out of a 6 million patient population and found that diseases such as hypertension, coronary artery disease and diabetes type 2 are all significantly less common in people with celiac disease,” Dr. Gibson said. “The reasons are uncertain — maybe it has something to do with lipids or maybe it’s due to the fact that people with celiac disease tend to be lighter and not as overweight as people without celiac disease. More research is needed, but the numbers are large enough to be pretty convincing.”

Another study analyzed the effect of a gluten-free diet on functional intestinal disorder symptoms in patients diagnosed with celiac disease. The researchers found that celiac patients on a gluten-free diet for 12 months experienced the same symptom rates for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), functional dyspepsia and functional bloating as the general population.

“This study suggests that people who come to us with IBS have at least a 50 percent chance of seeing their symptoms get much better. I think this study reminds us that the gut is a very inarticulate organ. It can have multiple things causing trouble that all express in similar ways,” Dr. Gibson said. “I think this also tells us to be careful in not needlessly over-restricting our patients’ diets. People with celiac disease have about the same chance of having irritable bowel syndrome as people who don’t have celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease.”