Research Brief: Early Celiac Diagnosis Cuts Mortality

Data from a U.K. study show the death rate for celiac patients has declined since blood tests for antibodies were introduced in the 1990s. The researchers suggest blood tests allow earlier diagnosis, facilitating better long-term health. However, after treatment, celiac patients still have higher mortality from all causes than the general population.

Celiac patients have a higher risk of dying from pneumonia. Death rates due to liver disease are also higher and have increased over time. The authors suggest both of these problems can be addressed if they are recognized and treated more promptly. The good news is the risk of death from heart disease in celiac patients has decreased significantly compared to the overall population. A rare form of cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, remains a significantly higher risk for celiac patients after diagnosis.

The findings were drawn from 2,174 celiac patients in Southern Derbyshire diagnosed between 1978 and 2014 with at least two years of follow-up. A total of 284 died of any cause. An earlier study failed to find any change in mortality before 2006. The new study re-examined the same group and included more patients diagnosed up to 2014.

The overall decline in mortality still did not reach statistical significance. However, there is evidence that earlier diagnosis helps patients live longer. Those who died in the 1980s lived an average of 3.5 years after diagnosis. Among those who died between 2010 and 2014, survival time had increased to 10.7 years. These figures exclude patients who died within two years of diagnosis before treatment could impact long-term health.


Holmes GKT and Muirhead A, “Mortality in coeliac disease: a population-based cohort study from a single centre in Southern Derbyshire, UK,” BMJ Open Gastroenterology, 2018;5:e000201,

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