Celiac disease can impact bone development at a crucial stage in childhood. Compliance with a gluten-free diet is the prime contributor to bone recovery, according to a study from Virgen del Rocío University Hospital, Seville, Spain.
Intestinal damage from celiac prevents proper absorption of vitamin D and calcium for good bone health. Patients face an increased risk for osteoporosis and are twice as likely to break a bone. The gluten-free diet heals the gut lining and allows nutrients to reach the bones.
This study looked at 43 children ages 1 to 13 newly diagnosed with celiac between 2012 and 2016. A food questionnaire tracked dietary nutrition from before diagnosis to one year later. Both gluten-containing and gluten-free diets contained most of the necessary nutrients. Contrary to concerns that a gluten-free diet may be high in fat, researchers noted an improvement in the type of fat consumed. The patients consumed less saturated fats and more polyunsaturated fats.
Poor bone mineral density was found in 35.5 percent of patients at diagnosis. This improved significantly to 18.2 percent after one year on a gluten-free diet. The length of time required for full bone recovery remains unknown.
Nutrient intake was normal except for vitamin D, found to be deficient in both gluten-containing and gluten-free diets. The authors recommend supplements for children newly diagnosed with celiac but only if they have low vitamin D.