Swaho Sahoo, Chandigarh NewsLine, Express India , Sunday , February 04, 2007
Chandigarh, February 3: North Indian households may be poised for a major lifestyle change in terms of food habit. In a recent study conducted by the gastroenterology department of PGI, one in every 122 children in Chandigarh is prone to celiac disease, commonly referred to as wheat allergy.
In the first such study conducted by the institute, five schools from the city were selected and a student population of 1,500 was surveyed. “We chose schools from five corners of the city so as to give representation to all strata of society,” said Dr Sadhna Lal, paediatric gastroenterologist at PGI.
“This study has broken the myth that wheat allergy was uncommon in India. Rather, the prevalence here is as common as in the West, only people don’t know about its existence,” Dr Lal said.
Another study conducted by DMC, Ludhiana, studied 4,300 schoolchildren and found a prevalence of one in 300. The most important factors that trigger celiac disease or intolerance to gluten – a protein that is found in wheat, barley or rye – are genes and exposure to wheat.
“Celiac disease is a genetically transmitted disease and North Indians share the same genes as Europeans,” said Dr Ajit Sood, HOD, Gastroenterology at DMC. “Most of the North Indian population are descendants of Europeans who invaded the country,” Dr Sood added, on the sidelines of a talk on the geographical variations of the disease, at the Gastro CME in PGI.
Although celiac disease is a lifelong ailment, it can be taken care of through abstinence from wheat and wheat products and any other product containing gluten.
“Unfortunately, in India it is difficult to get food that is gluten-free,” said Dr Lal. “Unlike the West, we don’t have legislation that makes it compulsory for food manufacturers to mention whether the food contains gluten or not,” she said.
Studies conducted in the West suggest that people suffering from wheat allergy undergo stress and psychological problems because of the insensitivity of society.
“It becomes very difficult for the patient as there are restrictions on his social life. He cannot eat out, cannot attend parties or travel without homemade food,” said Dr Lal. She added that doctors at PGI were in the process of studying the psychological impact of the disease on the indigenous population.