Celiac disease (CD), a common cause of malabsorption, is known to be associated with disorders of the skeleton, but there are conflicting data about the effect of diet on bone metabolism. The aims of this study were to investigate the prevalence of osteopenia; to identify the relationship between bone mineral density (BMD), serum calcium, and parathyroid hormone levels; and to determine the effect of gluten-free diet on BMD in children with celiac disease.
The study included 32 patients with CD (group 1) and 82 healthy controls (group 2). The patients with CD were evaluated under 2 subgroups, ie, 16 patients with recent diagnosis (group 1a) and 16 patients who follow their diet strictly (group 1b). BMD values and concentrations of calcium, phosphorus, alkaline phosphatase, and intact parathyroid hormone were determined on entry to the study and at 12 months in celiac patients. These values were compared with those of healthy control participants.
BMD and bone mineral content values in patients with recent diagnosis were found to be significantly lower than the control group. The BMD values in patients with recent diagnosis were significantly increased after a gluten-free diet for 1 year. Osteopenia was found more commonly in patients with recent diagnosis than patients in whom a gluten-free diet had been instituted. At 1-year follow-up, osteopenia was not resolved with the gluten-free diet, and this was especially true in patients without gastrointestinal manifestation. In patients with recent diagnosis (group 1a), the mean calcium level was found to be lower than the patients who follow their diet strictly (group 1b). There was a positive correlation between calcium level and BMD and bone mineral content.
BMD is almost invariably low in newly diagnosed celiac patients in childhood. We therefore recommend that BMD should be evaluated in patients with CD. Strict gluten avoidance promoted a significant increase in BMD. However, values still remained markedly low after 1 year of follow-up in some patients. These patients should be followed for longer periods of time with yearly BMD evaluation, as 1 year of diet therapy was found to be insufficient for osteopenia to be resolved.