Background: It has been suggested that vascular disease mortality may be reduced in coeliac disease because of lower levels of blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass.
Aim: To examine whether people with coeliac disease are at reduced risk of various vascular diseases.
Methods: We identified 3,790 adults with diagnosed coeliac disease and 17,925 age- and sex-matched controls in the General Practice Research Database. We estimated odds ratios for diagnosed hypertension, hypercholesterolaemia and atrial fibrillation and hazard ratios for myocardial infarction and stroke.
Results: Adults with coeliac disease, compared with controls, were less likely to have had a diagnosis of hypertension [11% vs. 15%, odds ratio 0.68 (95% confidence interval: 0.60-0.76)] or hypercholesterolaemia [3.0% vs. 4.8%, odds ration 0.58 (95% confidence interval: 0.47-0.72)] but slightly more likely to have had atrial fibrillation [2.1% vs. 1.7%, odds ratio 1.26 (95% confidence interval: 0.97-1.64)]. The hazard ratio for myocardial infarction was 0.85 (95% confidence interval: 0.63-1.13), while the hazard ratio for stroke was 1.29 (95% confidence interval: 0.98-1.70).
Conclusions: Although rates of myocardial infarction and stroke were not substantially different, adults with coeliac disease do have a lower prevalence of hypertension and hypercholesterolaemia compared with the general population. The effect of a gluten-free diet on cardiovascular risk factors should be determined before any screening programmes for coeliac disease are instituted.