Celiac.com 11/15/2007 - There’s a large body of evidence pointing to the importance of a life-long gluten-free diet for people with celiac disease. However, following a gluten-free diet is not always easy. Studies show that only 50% to 75% of all celiac patients are successful in faithfully following their gluten-free diets. But until now, very little has been published that indicates why this might be, or offers evidence as to the best way to succeed in faithfully maintaining a gluten-free diet.

Recently, a team of doctors led by Dr. Daniel Leffler conducted a study of the factors that are most important in increasing the success rates for people trying to maintain a gluten-free diet. Dr. Leffler is a clinical fellow in gastroenterology at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Dr. Leffler presented the results of that study recently at the 2007 American College of Gastroenterology’s Annual Scientific Meeting and Postgraduate Course. The results of the study indicate that support groups seem to have an important role to play.
 
A team of doctors, dietitians, psychologists, and patients created a study questionnaire that included 155 questions designed to measure ten areas important to success in living with celiac disease, including the burden of the disease, knowledge specific to celiac, health care access, mood and stress factors, perceptions about adherence, reasons for adherence, social support, symptoms.

Participants of the study were all found through biopsy to have celiac disease. A professional nutritionist assessed each of the participants for dietary adherence. Of the 154 participants, 76% were Caucasian women. Nearly 70% had at least a college-level education. The average age was 50, and they had followed gluten-free diets for an average of 5 years.

Concerns over cost and changes in stress levels and shifts in mood were among the reasons that contributed not following a gluten-free diet. Being a member of a celiac support group (P=.008), the ease of eating gluten-free while traveling (P=.012), or while attending social functions were important factors in successfully following the gluten-free diet.

Demographic factors like age, sex, and age at diagnosis had no bearing on successfully remaining on a gluten-free diet.

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