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Clin Nephrol. 1990 Feb;33(2):72-86.

Effects of a gluten-free diet in primary IgA nephropathy.

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Medical Nephrology of the University of Torino, Italy.


In an uncontrolled study a gluten-free diet was given to 29 patients affected by primary IgA nephropathy (IgAGN). All of them followed the diet for 6 months, 23 patients for 1 year and 9 for 2 to 4 years. Mean levels of IgA containing circulating immune complexes (IgAIC), detected by a specific conglutinin assay and by measuring IgA content in 2.5% polyethylene glycol precipitates, on an unrestricted diet, significantly decreased after 6 months of gluten-free diet (p less than 0.01) and remained reduced during the follow-up. A decrease in IgAIC levels was evident in 85.7% of the cases with basal positive data, with complete normalization in 64.3% of them. IgA to gluten antigens (ethanol- or saline-soluble gliadin, glutenin and the lectin fraction termed glyc-gli) as well as to heterologous bovine and egg albumins were found to be significantly increased on an unrestricted diet in the group of 14 IgAGN patients with basal positive IgAIC. The mean levels of IgA to most dietary antigens significantly decreased after 6 months to 1 year of a gluten-free diet. A decrease in IgA to ethanol-soluble gliadin was evident in 81.8% of the cases with basal positive data, with complete normalization in 63.6%. A subgroup of 27.5% of IgAGN patients showed positive IgAIC values associated with increased IgA values to a variety of dietary antigens. A gluten-free diet induced in 75% of the cases a parallel improvement in these abnormal immunological data. Mean proteinuria values were found to be significantly decreased after 6 months of the diet and a reduction was also observed in microscopic hematuria. However, mean blood creatinine levels showed a significant increase after the gluten-free diet. The data of this study indicate that a gluten-free diet can modify some immunological abnormalities in a group of IgAGN patients, reducing levels of IgAIC and IgA to dietary antigens. The clinical course does not seem to be favorably influenced, since a relentless progression towards renal failure was observed.

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