1 in 5 children with celiac disease do not heal with gluten-free diet

By Ryan Maass

BOSTON, Nov. 7 (UPI) -- Almost 20 percent of children with celiac disease continue to have symptoms after spending a year on a gluten-free diet, researchers say.

Celiac disease is a genetic autoimmune disorder characterized by damage in the small intestine which affects roughly 1 percent of people around the world. The Celiac Disease Foundation estimates 2.5 million people in the United States are undiagnosed.


While the illness is associated with gluten consumption, a study published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition suggests there may be other factors.

"These findings suggest that a revisitation of monitoring and management criteria of celiac disease in childhood," researcher Maureen Leonard said in a press release.

Scientists examined health records of 103 children and adolescents with celiac disease treated at 2 medical centers. The team found that the subjects followed a gluten-free diet for an average of 2.4 years, and rated 90 percent of the group has having an "excellent" adherence to the diet.

After conducting a repeat biopsy test, the team found persistent celiac enteropathy in 19 percent of the children.

"While the long-term effects are not known, persistent enteropathy may predispose pediatric patients with celiac disease to future complications and suboptimal growth," Leonard explained.


The authors concluded that while repeat biopsy is not recommended by current guidelines, it is the only way to confirm the presence of celiac enteropathy. However, they are calling on future studies to confirm their findings.

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