New Study Shows Students with Celiac Disease Face Social Stigma, Limited Options on College Campuses

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Non-profit organization, New England Celiac Organization, seeks to create celiac-friendly options, education, and awareness for young adults

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According to a 60-day survey conducted by the New England Celiac Organization (NECO), 60 percent of students with gluten-related disorders are unlikely to recommend their university to others with celiac disease.

College students with celiac disease and gluten-sensitivity face overwhelming complications in their social and academic lives. They are often exposed to cross-contamination in campus dining cafeterias, are unable to regularly socialize with their peers due to embarrassment related to food, and have to be strong advocates for themselves in response to untrained food staff.

According to a 60-day survey conducted by the New England Celiac Organization (NECO), 60 percent of students with gluten-related disorders are unlikely to recommend their university to others with celiac disease. Additionally, 44 percent of students with celiac disease reported eating gluten-free food on campus had been a problem their entire college career.

To combat this intense isolation felt by students, NECO, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating and advocating for those with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, recommends schools and universities develop safe-eating practices and recognize the severe impact and consequence of mishandling food. With 30 percent of students indicating they found no solution to their food allergies on campus, there is an apparent need for change throughout higher-education food service.

“It is imperative that our educational institutions stand up and eliminate the inconveniences and social burden of managing a special diet on campus, and protect their students from gluten exposure which will negatively affect their brains and bodies,” said Melinda Dennis, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., nutrition coordinator at the Celiac Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that permanently renders the person intolerant to food containing wheat, rye, and barley. Symptoms of the disease include gastrointestinal discomfort, fatigue, and pain throughout the body. Many survey participants said they have missed class or were unable to focus because they consumed gluten and became ill.

“The survey findings from NECO present a troubling picture for the basic safety of students on a gluten-free medical diet,” said Alessio Fasano, M.D., director of the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at Mass General Hospital for Children in Boston. “I urge college and university administrators to undertake an awareness campaign about celiac disease and gluten-related disorders to help eliminate the social stigma faced by these students.”

For students with celiac disease, college is an environment where they are especially vulnerable to being exposed to gluten-laden foods. NECO aims to alleviate the additional stress these young adults face through educational outreach and online resources.

Special thanks to Ian’s Natural Foods for support of this survey. Visit the NECO website to learn more.

About New England Celiac Organization:
New England Celiac Organization is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to educating and advocating for individuals with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivities, their families, and communities throughout New England. NECO provides education, awareness, and support for persons with celiac and the medical community through in-person events and the online community.

Website
http://www.neceliac.org

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Taylor Bentall