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Am J Clin Nutr. 1998 Mar;67(3):477-81.

Reversal of low bone density with a gluten-free diet in children and adolescents with celiac disease.

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Department of Pediatrics, Scientific Institute H San Raffaele, University of Milan, Italy.


Osteoporosis is a common finding in adult celiac disease patients; however, there are still few data regarding children and adolescents. In the present study we measured the bone mineral density (BMD) in children and adolescents at diagnosis of celiac disease and after approximately 1 y of a gluten-free diet. BMD was measured at the lumbar spine and in the whole skeleton by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry in 44 celiac disease patients aged 2.58-20.42 y at diagnosis. BMD was also measured in a subset of 25 patients after 1.4 +/- 0.04 y of a gluten-free diet. BMD was compared with that of 177 healthy control subjects aged 1.52-20.99 y. Lumbar spine and whole-body BMD values at diagnosis of celiac disease were significantly lower than in control subjects (P = 0.015 and P = 0.0001, respectively) after differences in age and anthropomorphic variables were controlled for. The subjects studied after the gluten-free diet had BMD values not significantly different from those of control subjects. In conclusion, children and adolescents with celiac disease have remarkably reduced lumbar spine and whole-body bone density. A gluten-free diet promotes a rapid increase of BMD that leads to a complete recovery of bone mineralization. These results emphasize the need for an early diagnosis and treatment in patients with celiac disease to obtain an adequate peak bone mass at the end of puberty.

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