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  • Scott Adams
    Scott Adams

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

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Celiac.com 11/29/2006 – Contrary to popular beliefs (not to metion outdated medical training), this study demonstrates that 39% of those who are diagnosed with celiac disease are actually overweight rather than underweight.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 This line of reasoning is outdated and incorrect, and is also very dangerous to those who happen to have celiac disease are are overweight—which is now known to be quite common.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.


    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.

    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.

    Mean BMI was 24.6 kg/m2 (range 16.3–43.5). Seventeen patients (5%) were underweight (BMI

    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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    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!

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    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.

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    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.



    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.

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    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?

    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.

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    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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  • About Me

    Celiac.com's Founder and CEO, Scott was diagnosed with celiac disease  in 1994, and, due to the nearly total lack of information available at that time, was forced to become an expert on the disease in order to recover. Scott launched the site that later became Celiac.com in 1995 "To help as many people as possible with celiac disease get diagnosed so they can begin to live happy, healthy gluten-free lives."  In 1998 he founded The Gluten-Free Mall which he sold in 2014. He is co-author of the book Cereal Killers, and founder and publisher of Journal of Gluten Sensitivity.

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