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BOSTON, MA, October 24, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- These days it seems you can't pick up anything without being proudly informed that it doesn't contain gluten. But before "gluten-free" became a turbo-powered marketing platform, before, in fact, most Americans had even heard of gluten, Dr. Alessio Fasano, the world's leading expert on gluten and celiac disease, had already treated tens of thousands of children and adults for conditions related to the consumption of this tiny little protein that causes such outsized health problems.
Fasano's welcome new book, Gluten Freedom (Wiley, hardcover, $24.95), deftly separates the myths about gluten from the reality, presents the definitive account of what gluten does, whom it affects, and what can be done for the millions of Americans, most of them undiagnosed, with celiac disease. Fasano also sheds light on the newly identified phenomenon of a different reaction to gluten--non-celiac gluten sensitivity or gluten sensitivity--that could affect many more millions of Americans, resulting in myriad health problems and billions of dollars in annual healthcare costs.
"Celiac disease is humanity's most prevalent genetically linked disease," says Fasano, founder and director of the Center for Celiac Research at Massachusetts General Hospital and visiting professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.
"We've made a lot of progress in the last ten years understanding the genetic and environmental factors underlying celiac disease and gluten sensitivity," says Dr. Fasano. "We've also made tremendous strides in diagnosing a condition whose existence, in as little as twenty years ago, wasn't even recognized by either the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or the National Institute of Health, at least in the United States." Much of those advances, as Gluten Freedom describes in its thorough retelling of the history of celiac research in the U.S., came from seminal studies conducted by Fasano himself.
Gluten Freedom provides a clear, concise roadmap for understanding why gluten does what it does and what can be done about it. Celiac disease, as Fasano makes clear, can never be cured. But it can be managed, quite successfully, via a dietary regimen that's becoming easier to follow as gluten awareness continues to evolve.
Celiac disease is a genetic disorder affecting children and adults. In people with the disease, even the slightest bit of gluten sets off an autoimmune reaction that can eventually lead to the complete destruction of part of the small intestine.
Marilyn G. Geller, CEO of the Celiac Disease Foundation, calls Gluten Freedom "a must-have work" and "an excellent reference for those with gluten-related disorders, their caregivers, physicians, dietitians and the general public as well." Dr. James M. Perrin, professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and former director of the Division of General Pediatrics at MassGeneral Hospital for Children, calls Dr. Fasano "the acknowledged leader in the science of celiac disease and gluten-related disorders." Perrin lauds Gluten Freedom for providing "clear guidance about the best ways to avoid and treat problems with gluten among affected individuals."
Just as Fasano's work at the Center for Celiac Research ended up moving the needle on understanding celiac disease, his seminal research is now doing the same for a larger community of sufferers--the roughly 20 million Americans who don't test positive for celiac disease but nevertheless show sensitivity to the gluten protein.
"We've shown now that gluten sensitivity actually exists. It's moved from a nebulous condition that many physicians dismissed to a distinctly identifiable condition that's quite different than celiac disease," Fasano explains. "Gluten sensitivity affects six to seven times more people than celiac disease.
"Our research has shown that the immune system responds to gluten in different ways depending on genetic disposition and other factors, such as bacteria in the gut. This is important because, for the first time, we can help people who test negative for celiac disease but still react badly to gluten. In general, reactions to gluten fall along a spectrum that ranges from wheat allergy to celiac disease to gluten sensitivity."
Fasano is also excited about future research that may shed light on the mechanisms of other autoimmune diseases such as lupus, arthritis, and maybe even cancer. "This is an exciting time in the field. Studying the mechanism of celiac disease has taught us a lot, but we still have a long way to go."
A good portion of that learning is due to Dr. Fasano. "As a pioneer in the study of gluten-related disorders," says Dana Korn, author of Living Gluten-Free for Dummies, "Dr. Fasano is a hero. He's dedicated his life to shining light on the science behind these pervasive conditions. The world is privileged that he has taken his time to share his insight in this remarkable book."
Alessio Fasano, MD is founder and director of the Center for Celiac Research at Massachusetts General Hospital, the first research and treatment center for celiac disease, wheat allergy, and gluten sensitivity in the U.S. A national and international keynote speaker, he is visiting professor at Harvard Medical School and chief of the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition at MassGeneral Hospital for Children.
For more information, visit www.massgeneral.org/children/doctors/doctor.aspx?id=19184.
Media contact: Victor Gulotta
Gulotta Communications, Inc.
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