Why is celiac disease so common in Ireland?

Perspect Biol Med. 2001 Summer;44(3):342-52. doi: 10.1353/pbm.2001.0045.


Celiac disease (gluten sensitive enteropathy) is a condition affecting the small bowel, characterized by permanent intolerance to dietary gluten, and giving rise to varying degrees of malabsorption and diarrhea. With the advent of sensitive screening tests, the condition is being increasingly diagnosed. Celiac disease is more common in the Irish and in those of Irish descent. Simoons (1978, 1981) hypothesized that the present-day prevalence of celiac disease across Europe is related to the interaction between genetic gradients, largely determined by the advance of agriculture, and historical patterns of cereal ingestion. This essay examines Simoons' hypothesis as it relates to Ireland, reviews the ethnic and genetic mix of those living on the island of Ireland and aspects of Irish dietary history, and considers how these factors may have combined to result in a high frequency of celiac disease.

MeSH terms

  • Celiac Disease / epidemiology*
  • Celiac Disease / ethnology
  • Celiac Disease / genetics
  • Diet
  • Humans
  • Ireland / epidemiology
  • Prevalence