Flame Retardants May Cause Celiac Disease in Young People

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A new study published in the journal Environmental Research suggests that young people with higher levels of persistent organic pollutants in their blood have a higher chance of developing celiac disease.



What is celiac disease?


According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, celiac disease is a digestive disorder that occurs when people eat food with gluten.


It occurs when the immune system overreacts to gluten and hurts the small intestine, causing abdominal pain or constipation in the short term, and malnutrition or reproductive problems in the long run.


However, previous animal studies have shown that other factors may also lead to celiac disease.



Why do people develop celiac disease?


Researchers hypothesize that a possible factor of developing celiac disease is exposure to persistent organic pollutants (POPs). POPs are chemical contaminants found in flame retardants in furniture and electronics, detergents, and non-stick cookware.


Although these toxic chemicals have been gradually phased out of production, POPs are usually non-degradable. Once in the human body, they can have lasting adverse effects on hormones and the immune system.



What did researchers do?


The study involved 88 young participants who had visited the hospital with gastrointestinal problems.


All the participants were under 21 years old, of whom 30 had been diagnosed with celiac disease and 58 had not. The research team examined their serum concentrations of POPs in the blood and found that young people with celiac disease had higher concentrations of POPs in their blood than those without one.


The findings also suggest that gender may play an important role.


For women, they are:


- At least 8 times more likely to develop celiac disease, if they have high levels of POPs in their blood, particularly those related to pesticides; and


- 5 to 9 times more likely to develop celiac disease if high levels of non-stick chemicals are present.


For men, they are twice likely to develop celiac disease with high levels of flame-retardant chemicals in their blood.


There are some limitations due to issues such as small sample size and limited diversity. However, this study is still valuable because it lays the groundwork for future research. Check the pots and furniture you use and try to prevent the intake of POPs with meals.


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