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Celiac Disease Patients Have Higher Fracture Risk

Celiac Disease and fracture risk

Having celiac disease means a long-term greater risk of nutrient deficiencies that could potentially translate later in life to a greater risk of bone fracture. Fortunately, new research finds that adherence to a gluten-free diet and subsequent healing of the intestinal lining can reduce this risk.

Jonas F Ludvigsson PhD MD of Karolinska University Hospital and a team of researchers studied more than 7,000 Swedes who were diagnosed with celiac disease, an autoimmune condition where consumed gluten triggers reactions within the small intestine that ultimately damages the villi that help the body absorb nutrients. The team followed the patients from July 1969 to February 2008 for an average of 10.3 years after diagnosis.

Past studies have suggested that celiac disease is associated with a decreased bone mineral density (BMD). In the most recent research, those patients who had persistent villous atrophy where the intestinal tissue did not heal were at a higher risk for broken bones.

"We believe that giving the mucous membrane -- the moist tissue lining the small intestine -- a chance to heal can lower the risk of complications, including bone fractures, in celiac patients," said Dr. Ludvigsson,

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The Center for Celiac Research and Treatment has found that nearly 1 out of every 133 Americans suffer from celiac disease, making CD twice as common as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis and cystic fibrosis combined.

Symptoms of celiac disease include diarrhea, weight loss, abdominal pain, chronic fatigue, weakness, malnutrition, and other gastrointestinal problems. In children, the symptoms may include failure to thrive (an inability to grow and put on weight), irritability, an inability to concentrate, diarrhea and bloating.

Thankfully, if intestinal damage is exclusively due to celiac, the villi are not permanently damaged because the intestine is an organ which renews itself every three days. (The time for the villa to return to normal varies among individuals.) However, the only way this can happen is through the consumption of a diligent gluten-free diet.

Journal References:
Jonas F. Ludvigsson, PhD, MD et al. Persistent Mucosal Damage and Risk of Fracture in Celiac Disease. JCEM, February 2014
C J R Goddard and H R Gillett. Complications of coeliac disease: are all patients at risk? Postgrad Med J. 2006 November; 82(973): 705-712

Additional Resources:
Center for Celiac Research and Treatment
University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research