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Celiac disease is a common disorder affecting about 1% of the population. Symptoms of celiac disease are highly variable and delays in diagnosis are common. Lifelong adherence to a strict gluten-free diet is the only treatment to prevent or reduce symptoms and the risk of complications, which include osteoporosis, infertility and certain forms of cancer. Following a strict gluten-free diet is challenging since gluten is ubiquitous in western foods and is very difficult to avoid in many daily life situations.
As part of a larger study entitled "Living with a Gluten-Free Diet", researchers from Health Canada and the Canadian Celiac Association investigated the clinical features of celiac disease and compliance with the gluten-free diet in Canadian adults with celiac disease who are members of a celiac support group. Results showed that delays in diagnosis of celiac disease remain common. Also, despite reporting to be on a strict gluten-free diet, many individuals with celiac disease continue to have symptoms, raising the possibility of ongoing dietary consumption of gluten. Researchers concluded that awareness of celiac disease, its symptoms and treatment needs to be improved. Careful dietary instruction is essential for patients to enable recovery from symptoms and avoid complications. The "Living with a Gluten-Free Diet" study was developed by Health Canada and the Canadian Celiac Association in collaboration with the Fondation québécoise de la maladie coeliaque.