W2 Reflection: Celiac Disease Common Among Irish

Celiac disease is a term gaining familiarity here in the U.S. with the increasing popularity of food products being “gluten free” and therefore believed to be healthier for you, but dietary gluten is a serious concern for individuals that suffer from this intolerance and sensitivity. While looking into this disease that affects the small intestines and can cause serious malabsorption and discomfort, I discovered that there is a strong correlation between Celiac’s and individuals of Irish decent. According to studies, this is because as agriculture was developing across Europe the people of Ireland mostly cultivated oats, which contain less gluten than other cereals like wheat, barely, and rye (C. Cronin, F. Shanahan, Summer 2001). Being an island, the Irish found themselves in a ‘food desert’ and did not get any other exposure or supplementation to gluten-rich products. The genotype for gluten tolerance never developed, and the gene flow remained within their population until it began to drift with emigration. The graph that I am attaching shows the percentage of the individuals that have diagnosed Celiac disease in the U.S., and the prevalence of those having come from an Irish heritage.

The relationship between race, genetics, and health is complicated because although it has been genetically proven that biological “races” do not exist, certain groups will propagate that prejudice and try to use it to their advantage. As discussed in the lecture, individuals enrolled in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study were targeted because they were poor, black men, and it was believed that the “bad blood disease” was prevalent within their population and passed around because of their race and genetics being inferior. It was continuously overlooked that their health was influenced by their socio-economic status and the availability of proper health education. An individual’s ethnicity, on the other hand, can influence different aspects of their health because mutations or other attributes can be genetically passed on to other generations.



CRONIN, CORNELIUS C., and FERGUS SHANAHAN. “WHY IS CELIAC DISEASE SO COMMON IN IRELAND?” Perspectives in Biology and Medicine Summer 2001: 342. Health Reference Center Academic. Web. 15 July 2016.

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