Treatment Guide

Shared Genes in Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease

A 2008 study provides more evidence that there is a link between celiac disease and gluten. This article in Scientific American reviews the study.

Diabetes and celiac disease: A Genetic Connection
Patients with type 1 diabetes have been known to be more prone to another autoimmune disorder, celiac disease, in which gluten in wheat, rye and barley triggers an immune response that damages the small intestine or gut. Now there’s evidence that the two diseases have a genetic link: they share at least seven chromosome regions.

The discovery, published in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine, indicates that both diseases may be triggered by similar genetic and environmental mechanisms, such as certain foods, that cause patients’ immune systems to become overactive and destroy healthy instead of infected tissue. Previous research has found that celiac disease is five to 10 times more common in people with type 1 diabetes than in the general population, an editorial accompanying the study notes.

“These findings suggest common mechanisms causing both celiac and type 1 diabetes – we did not expect to see this very high degree of shared genetic risk factors,” said study co-author David van Heel, a gastrointestinal geneticist at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry.

Van Heel and his colleagues studied genetic material or DNA from about 20,000 people, half of them healthy, nearly half with type 1 diabetes, and 2,000 with celiac disease. The overlapping genetic variants occurred on regions of chromosomes (parts of cells that carry genetic code) that are believed to regulate the gut’s immune system, the BBC notes.

Type 1 diabetes occurs when a person’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy beta cells in the pancreas that produce the hormone insulin, which is needed to convert glucose into energy. In celiac disease, a similar attack occurs on the small intestine when sufferers eat gluten-rich grains, causing inflammation in the gut that can lead to bloating, abdominal pain, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, fatigue, anemia, headaches, weight loss and failure to thrive in children. Whereas diabetes 1 patients must inject insulin daily to make up for their deficiency, people with celiac disease can avoid damage and symptoms by sticking to a gluten-free diet.

“The finding raises the question of whether eating cereal and other gluten products might trigger type 1 diabetes by altering the function of the gut and its interaction with the pancreas, the authors write. But Robert Goldstein, chief scientific officer of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, which helped fund the study, says it would be premature to assume from this study that gluten is also a diabetes trigger.

“I fear the newspaper headlines in the popular press will read like, ‘Eating wheat will cause type 1 diabetes,’” Goldstein tells us. “The presence or absence of these associations has to be linked to some biological consequence” for a person’s health.

Article Source:

*UK Study Source: Shared and Distinct Genetic Variants in Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease, New England Journal of Medicine.


[Editor’s Note: Article reprinted from December, 2008.]

About John Libonati

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Author Information: John Libonati, SW Florida Publisher, & The Gluten Free Works Treatment Guide.


  1. My dad had celiac disease and was very sensitive – even a trace of gluten would trigger violent diarrhea. His half-sister’s children BOTH have type-1 diabetes, diagnosed at very young age. I have non celiac gluten sensitivity, as does my daughter and possibly my son. On my husband’s side of the family, his mother has had severe intestinal trouble since childhood – I suspect celiac, but don’t know if she’s ever been tested. She’s had 2 surgeries to remove damaged intestine… now she’s in her 80’s with Alzheimer’s and dementia. My husband’s sister has celiac disease… so for our kids, it’s on both sides of the gene pool.

  2. My son Christopher Boice got diabete when he was 16 years old. , go children hospital of phila. , pa. Found that he got diabete. 1 type. , He is not accept it. , depressed.
    Not like. Label. Diabete , hard of hearing , his Deaf parents. , Not know what to do to help him to accept who he is. . He doesn’t not good take card of himself.

    How can we help him. Wondering. Can do anything to help him , Do thing ogf new tech to cure , medicine , surgery , I am not sure. How can something to help.

    My husband Greg mother and brother. Had. 1type. Brother. Was 25 yrs old. , very bad. , he still alive. He is 68 years old. He take care himself as well , control. Sugar

    His mother. Was very bad diabete. , she lost her one leg later two weeks , died. It was 1981.

    Greg had 2 type. He doing fine. A1c good.

    My name Jeanette. I had 2 type. When I was preg with Chris. Later Chris was born. His weight almost 11 lbs

    I still had diabete. , Need lose weight. , then plan to have a surgery. To help. Control
    What I eating. Hope it will work. Doctor is very concern about my a1c. 10.2

    Can you advise us. What to do. , help.

    I really concern about my son Chris. , he is 21 years old.

    Can you email at Or mail us. Greg , Chris Jeanette Boice
    136 Pulaski st. Pottstown pa 19464.

    Phone. 484 948. 3956. Leave message.

    Thank you.

  3. I have celiac disease snd my brother has diabetese1

  4. My daughter has had health challenges for some time. After many doctor visits, medical tests, hospital trips, and a lot of tears, she was diagnosed with “insulin resistance”. We learned to monitor her sugars, but there was minimal relief of her symptoms. In desperation and on a complete fluke, we decided to try this “glutin free” thing and she is doing so much better. I will continue to do research on the links between the two conditions so we have a better understanding. Any additional information is much appreciated.

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