Research shows that celiac disease increasingly causes hypothyroidism in the elderly

Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine Center recently found that celiac disease, which multiplies the risk of hypothyroidism, is on the rise, and there is evidence of increasing cases in the elderly.

Celiac disease, which is also called gluten enteropathy, is an autoimmune intestinal disorder that can damage the lining of the small intestine; the pancreas, which increases the risk of diabetes; the thyroid gland; and the nervous system, CW News reports. The disease results from an abnormal immunological reaction to gluten, found in wheat, barley, rye, and oats.

"You're never too old to develop celiac disease," Alessio Fasano, director of the University of Maryland's Mucosal Biology Research Center, told the news source.

As the people in the study got older, the incidence of celiac disease rose. These results support a 2008 Finnish study that found the prevalence of celiac disease in the elderly to be nearly two and a half times higher than the general population. The recent findings challenge the common speculation that the loss of gluten tolerance resulting in the disease usually develops in childhood.

Research found in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism shows that people with celiac disease had a greater than fourfold increased risk of being diagnosed with hypothyroidism, a threefold increased risk of suffering hyperthyroidism and a 3.6-fold increased risk of developing thyroiditis.