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39% of Celiac Disease Patients are Overweight at Diagnosis—A Full 30% are Obese

Celiac.com 11/29/2006 – Contrary to popular beliefs (not to metion outdated medical training), this study demonstrates that 39% of those who are diagnosed with celiac disease are actually overweight rather than underweight. A full 30% of celiac disease patients were in the obese range at the time of their diagnosis. Unfortunately many medical doctors still wont even consider testing overweight patients for celiac disease because they erronously believe that the disease can only occur in individuals who are underweight. This line of reasoning is outdated and incorrect, and is also very dangerous to those who happen to have celiac disease are are overweight—which is now known to be quite common.

For those who want to read more about this topic be sure to have a look at the following articles:


Below is the Abstract for the latest study, which was conducted by William Dickey, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.C.G.:

Am J Gastroenterol. 2006;101(10):2356-2359.
Overweight in Celiac Disease: Prevalence, Clinical Characteristics, and Effect of a Gluten-Free Diet
Posted 11/14/2006
William Dickey, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.C.G.; Natalie Kearney, B.Sc.

Abstract:
Background: It is well established that a minority of celiac patients present with classic symptoms due to malabsorption. However, few studies have focussed on the distribution of body mass index (BMI) in celiac populations and its relationship to clinical characteristics, or on its response to treatment.

Methods: We reviewed BMI measurements and other clinical and pathological characteristics from a database of 371 celiac patients diagnosed over a 10-yr period and seen by a single gastroenterologist. To assess response to gluten exclusion, we compared BMI at diagnosis and after 2 yr treatment in patients with serological support for dietary compliance.

Results: Mean BMI was 24.6 kg/m2 (range 16.3–43.5). Seventeen patients (5%) were underweight (BMI <18.5), 211 (57%) were normal, and 143 (39%) were overweight (BMI =25), including 48 (13% of all patients) in the obese range (BMI =30.0). There was a significant association between low BMI and female gender, history of diarrhea, reduced hemoglobin concentration, reduced bone mineral density (BMD), osteoporosis, and higher grades (subtotal/total) of villous atrophy. Of patients compliant with a gluten-free diet, 81% had gained weight after 2 yr, including 82% of initially overweight patients.

Conclusions: Few celiac patients are underweight at diagnosis and a large minority is overweight; these are less likely to present with classical features of diarrhea and reduced hemoglobin. Failed or delayed diagnosis of celiac disease may reflect lack of awareness of this large subgroup. The increase in weight of already overweight patients after dietary gluten exclusion is a potential cause of morbidity, and the gluten-free diet as conventionally prescribed needs to be modified accordingly.

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17 Responses:

 
an unknown user
Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfull Unrated
said this on
30 Oct 2007 7:12:36 AM PST
The article is well-written and informative. (It also confirms my suspicions.)

 
Teri
Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfull Unrated
said this on
21 Dec 2007 1:53:55 PM PST
I have struggled with my weight for decades. My doctors never checked for a gluten allergy - any they were wrong to do so. I have already lost 15 lbs in 2 weeks be eliminating gluten. Thank you!!!!!!

 
Tammy
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said this on
18 Oct 2008 10:35:36 PM PST
I have rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, long term chronic anemia, depression, anxiety, ADD, and (possible) mild bi-polar disorder. An episode of Mystery Diagnosis led me to look into Celiac disease. However, I almost crossed it off the list of possibilities because of the symptoms (both categories) listing weight loss as (seemingly) a universal consequence of the disease. Only by looking more deeply into the site did I find this article - which of course indicates that weight gain is possibly more common. Although you say that doctor's don't suspect celiac disease in overweight patients because of 'popular beliefs (not to mention outdated medical training)' your website reinforces those beliefs on the symptoms page (which is the first, and sometimes only, page most people look at. Because of finding this article, I am more convinced of the possibility of celiac disease and more prepared to insist on testing. However, I wonder how many people wouldn't have researched this far because they are overweight. Perhaps you could correct the symptoms to reflect that weight gain is common also.

Thanks!

 
Donna
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said this on
30 Dec 2011 8:20:19 AM PST
I agree with your post, after reading the symptoms of weight loss and wasting away I shook my head and quit reading. Then I find this post that 30% are obese! That should be listed as well.

 
Paul
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said this on
19 May 2009 5:54:56 AM PST
Message mainly for Tammy. I got onto this site as I have linked gastro intestinal problems with autism. I believe I have Asperger's Syndrome. It had been shown that people with Aspergers tend to have problems coping with yeast etc. From your symptoms - ADD, Depression etc I would suggest that you should look into Aspergers. It might help you with understanding some of the things you are going through.

 
Brooke
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said this on
03 Jul 2009 1:15:40 AM PST
When i was first diagnosed my doctor told me I would probably loose weight from eliminating gluten however I have slowly gained 25 lbs in the last 2 years. Admittedly I have not always been constant with my diet. My weight gain has really become a huge issue for me. The article states that, 'The increase in weight of already overweight patients after dietary gluten exclusion is a potential cause of morbidity, and the gluten-free diet as conventionally prescribed needs to be modified accordingly.' Well what does this mean? How should it be modified? Any suggestions?

 
Anonymous
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said this on
16 Oct 2009 7:57:14 AM PST
Brooke -
If I eat rice or corn I still do not lose, but usually do not gain. If I eat mostly fruits, vegetables and lean meat, that is when I lose. I have been overweight my entire life, am just now (at age 33) getting tested for celiac and gluten intolerance. I have always lost and felt healthier on a low carb diet, I am just now making the connection.

 
Jennifer
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said this on
15 Jul 2012 6:59:23 PM PST
I had to go gluten-free after my system went berserk after having a C-section. I had been at 200 lbs+ (I'm 5'1") since 8th grade, and had tried for over ten years to lose weight. If you continue eating lots of carbs by replacing your breads, crackers, cookies, pastas, candies, donuts, chips, and such with gluten-free replacements, you're just adding more empty calories. Your weight will go up as a result. I lost 20 pounds the first 6 months I was gluten-free, and then started going back up. I cut most of my processed carbs out, and started eating more meals that didn't need breads, noodles, flours, or fried things. I eat lots of country style, mexican, mediterranean, and asian inspired meals. I am down to 160 lbs, and in size 12 jeans. I was size 22W at my largest. I hope this helps, and good luck.

 
K.P
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said this on
19 Feb 2010 6:52:41 PM PST
Hi! I wanted to point out that the abstract from the medical article actually states that "13% of all patients were in the obese range (BMI=30)." I think you might have crossed numbers when you posted that a full 30% of patients were in the obese range (30 is the BMI minimum, not the percentage of patients). Please consider editing for accuracy - and thank you very much for providing this data!

 
myrna klein
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said this on
31 Mar 2010 6:08:08 AM PST
I think the article is great because it did answer my question about...losing weight after gaining 30 lbs. at the time of diagnosis. I was very thin all my life UNTIL. If you have a quick fix to lose weight , I would be grateful. I am very unhappy. I do not have to eat gluten free foods because I eat regular food but NO Gluten and I am okay with that. Your article did not help in that area. Thanks

 
ARH
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said this on
11 Jul 2010 12:26:34 PM PST
I have thought this an issue for along time. 25 years ago my Dr. read the biopsy lab report and told me that even though it said villous atrophy etc, I could not be celiac because I was overweight. I went through 15 more years of doctors and related autoimmune problems till I was diagnosed 10 years ago. Most of my autoimmune issues and even some weight disappeared once I went gluten free. In fact I threw away my handicapped sticker!

 
anonymous
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said this on
05 Aug 2010 11:13:12 AM PST
Great article. I am overweight and was told by my Gastroenterologist 3 years ago that it is impossible that I have celiac because of my weight. I have not been tested. No matter what diet I try, I can't lose the weight. I have continued to look for answers and search about celiac among my other issues. Well...I've been 100% gluten free for 3 days now and lost 8 pounds so far. It's hard to watch every little thing I eat - but I can do it! I am starting to feel better and I know it will be worth it in the long term. Thanks again for the reassurance that this isn't in my imagination...like my Dr. thought it was. I won't go back to him either!

 
angel
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said this on
19 Apr 2011 6:30:16 PM PST
My doctor pretty much told me today that I can not have this because I am to fat and health to have it. I am hypoglycemic, have migraines 4 to 5 days a week, have fibromyalgia, and have broken several bones in the last few years. Yup I am healthy alright. She flat out refused to test me, because of my weight. I personally think this is nuts. I am going to call my insurance company tomorrow to see about finding a new doctor, I can't take this anymore.

 
Justine
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said this on
30 Aug 2011 1:42:20 PM PST
I am overweight / obese despite healthy eating and lots of exercise but a clever dietician spotted that I appeared to have a wheat and lactose intolerance. I cut them out and like magic, digestive problems disappeared within days as did half a stone! My doc has had a stool sample analyzed and it shows malabsorption problems consistent with celiac and also pancreatic insufficiency. The gastro consultant has booked me in for a colonoscopy but they are suggesting that they expect to be able to sort it all out with gluten-free diet and enzymes. And I thought it couldn't be celiac because I was overweight!

 
Lori
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said this on
07 Oct 2011 5:09:43 PM PST
I have struggled with weight for most of my life. However in the past 3 years I began to experience severe joint pain..not just weight bearing join either. More importantly I have noticed severe joint pain after minimal alcohol consumption. (mainly beer) and it occurred to me I may have an allergy to the contents of beer. After further research, I made the connection to gluten allergy/intolerance. I want to try a gluten free diet in hopes of eliminating join pain. I'm afraid of weight gain! But, I want to be pain free so badly!

 
ECC
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said this on
21 Nov 2011 4:48:57 AM PST
Thank you for finding and posting this research. My 19 year old has suffered her whole life with a host of symptoms that I feel recently have pointed to celiac. She is being tested on Wednesday...finally...despite her primary care physician stating that overweight people can't have celiac.

 
Shannon
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said this on
27 May 2013 5:32:41 PM PST
I am one that went misdiagnosed for years! I have Hashimodo's and chronic anemia and a bloated gut! My hemoglobin was a 7 and I was diagnosed with a GI bleed and that is when they found celiac!




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