The Relationship Between Child Mortality Rates and Prevalence of Celiac Disease

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Some evidence suggests that prevalence of celiac disease in the general population is increasing over time. Because the prognosis of celiac disease was a dismal one before discovering the role of gluten, our aim was to investigate a possible relationship between children under-5 mortality rates and prevalence rates of celiac disease.


Thanks to a literature review, we found 27 studies performed in 17 different countries describing the prevalence of celiac disease in schoolchildren; between 1995 and 2011, 4 studies were performed in Italy. A meta-analysis of prevalence rates was performed. Prevalence was compared between specific country under-5 mortality groups, publication year, and age.


In the last decades, under-5 mortality rates have been decreasing all over the world. This reduction is paralleled by an increase of the prevalence of celiac disease. The Spearman correlation coefficient was −63%, 95% confidence interval −82% to −33% (P < 0.001). So, the higher the mortality rate, the lower the prevalence of CD. This finding is confirmed by the meta-analysis of the 4 studies conducted in Italy over time.


The under-5 mortality rate seems to influence the prevalence of celiac disease in the general population. In the near future, the number of patients with celiac disease will increase, thanks to the better environmental conditions that nowadays allow a better survival of children with celiac disease.

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