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Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2009 Aug 15;30(4):315-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2036.2009.04053.x. Epub 2009 May 26.

Systematic review: adherence to a gluten-free diet in adult patients with coeliac disease.

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School of Applied Sciences, University of Sunderland, Sunderland, UK.



Coeliac disease is increasingly diagnosed in adult patients who present with atypical symptoms or who are asymptomatic and detected by case screening. Its treatment, a gluten-free diet, can have a considerable impact on daily living. Understanding the factors associated with non-adherence is important in terms of supporting patients with their condition.


To investigate factors associated with adherence to a gluten-free diet in adults with coeliac disease.


A literature search of multiple electronic databases using a pre-determined search string for literature between 1980 and November 2007 identified a possible 611 hits. After checking for relevance, 38 studies were included in this review.


Rates for strict adherence range from 42% to 91% depending on definition and method of assessment and are the lowest among ethnic minorities and those diagnosed in childhood. Adherence is most strongly associated with cognitive, emotional and socio-cultural influences, membership of an advocacy group and regular dietetic follow-up. Screen and symptom-detected coeliac patients do not differ in their adherence to a gluten-free diet.


The existing evidence for factors associated with non-adherence to a gluten-free diet is of variable quality. Further and more rigorous research is needed to characterize those individuals most likely to be non-adherent to assist them better with their treatment.

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