Celiac disease: associated with significantly increased mortality

Celiac disease: associated with significantly increased mortality

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Gluten intolerance is associated with increased mortality

A large study found increased mortality from a number of causes of death in people with celiac disease compared to healthy people. According to this, sufferers who suffer from gluten intolerance are more than 20 percent more likely to die from cardiovascular diseases, cancer or respiratory diseases.

Researchers at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and Columbia University in the USA showed that celiac disease (also: gluten-sensitive or gluten-induced enteropathy, intestinal infantilism, sprue, Heubner-Herter disease) is associated with a significantly increased mortality. The results were recently presented in the renowned journal "JAMA".

50,000 celiac cases analyzed

According to a recent study, people with celiac disease have an increased risk of dying prematurely, although awareness of the disease has increased in recent years and access to gluten-free food has improved. Using national data from Sweden's pathology departments linked to national health registries, the research team examined around 50,000 celiac disease patients related to the risk of death.

Mortality in celiac disease increases by over 20 percent

Compared to the control group, the overall mortality among those with celiac disease was increased by 21 percent. The relative increase in mortality risk was present in all age groups and most pronounced among those diagnosed with the disease between the ages of 18 and 39.

Celiac disease is often associated with long-term complications

"We knew that celiac disease could cause a number of long-term complications that could affect life expectancy, but this study looked at an entire population at a time when celiac disease awareness and access to gluten-free food was widespread," explains Benjamin Lebwohl, director of clinical research at Columbia University's Celiac Center and first author of the study.

Long-term consequences of celiac disease

"Nevertheless, we have found that celiac disease has long-term consequences," emphasizes Lebwohl. Compared to the control group, the risk of dying from celiac disease was heart disease, cancer or respiratory disease. The risk was highest in the first year after diagnosis, but the increase in risk continued over ten years after diagnosis.

Inflammation appears to be responsible

"Celiac disease is characterized by inflammation, which is generally bad for your health," adds Professor Jonas F. Ludvigsson, pediatrician and corresponding author of the study. He is therefore not surprised by the results of the analysis.

Why is the risk of death highest after diagnosis?

The fact that the risks were highest in the first year after diagnosis can, for Ludvigsson, have several reasons. "Intestinal inflammation is often the most intense around the diagnosis and before a gluten-free diet has had an effect on mucosal healing," explains the professor. Another possible explanation is that celiac disease is often discovered when people have been very ill for other reasons. (vb)

More information on the topic can be found in the article: Gluten allergy (celiac disease) - symptoms, causes and therapy.

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • Karolinska Institutet: Celiac disease linked to increased mortality (published: April 7th, 2020),
  • Benjamin Lebwohl, Peter H.R. Green, Jonas Söderling, et al .: Association Between Celiac Disease and Mortality Risk in a Swedish Population; in: JAMA, 2020,

Video: How I Diagnosed Myself with Celiac Disease. My Diagnosis Story (August 2022).