Individuals with celiac disease may be at a two-fold increased risk of coronary artery disease compared to the general population, according to results presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 63rd Annual Scientific Session.

This is the first study to evaluate the association between celiac disease and coronary artery disease. It also adds to the evolving understanding of how systemic inflammation and autoimmune processes might influence cardiovascular development.

Electronic health records for 22.4 million patients were obtained from 13 participating health care systems between January 1999 and September 2013 of which 24,530 were diagnosed with celiac disease. Patients without celiac disease served as controls in the study.

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Researchers found a significantly higher prevalence of coronary artery disease among patients with celiac disease compared to the control population (9.5% vs. to 5.6%, respectively). A similar trend was observed among younger patients <65 years with celiac disease vs. those without celiac disease (4.5% vs. 2.4%). Data also showed a slightly higher risk of stroke among people with celiac disease compared to controls.

Larger studies are needed to confirm the association between celiac disease and coronary artery disease and to examine how the severity of celiac disease may play a role. Because so many people may have gluten sensitivities but do not have celiac disease, future research should investigate whether this larger population may also be at risk for coronary artery disease. Earlier studies have linked celiac disease with arrhythmias, which is what prompted researchers to conduct this study.

For more information visit the American College of Cardiology website.