An Italian study shows that two-thirds of adult celiac disease patients who carefully followed a gluten-free diet showed complete recovery after one year. Patients with severe cases with more intestinal damage were likely to make only a partial recovery, but everyone who followed the diet improved. Patients who slipped up fared less well.
A gluten-free diet is the only known treatment for celiac disease, but experts disagree on how and when to measure its effectiveness in an individual. This study enrolled 65 newly diagnosed patients, providing follow-up interviews, blood tests and biopsies after one year.
Of the study’s participants, 53 patients, or 82 percent, followed the gluten-free diet better than expected. Most other research has found a lower rate of compliance. It is possible that patients were motivated to follow the diet because they knew they were participating in the study. Of the 12 participants who did not stick with a strict diet, seven showed only partial intestinal recovery after a year, and the other five made no improvement.
Galli, G.; Esposito G.; Lahner, E.; Pilozzi, E.; Corleto, V.D.; Di Giulio, E.; Aloe Spiriti, M.A.; Annibale, B., “Histological recovery and gluten-free diet adherence: a prospective 1-year follow-up study of adult patients with coeliac disease,” Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, July 28, 2014, 40:639-47; doi:10.1111/apt.12893.