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    Does a Gluten-free Diet Help Asymptomatic Patients with Serologic Markers of Celiac Disease?


    Jefferson Adams

    Celiac.com 10/15/2014 - A team of researchers recently set out to assess the benefits of a gluten-free diet for people whose blood screens show markers for celiac disease, but who show no physical symptoms. Specifically, they investigated whether screen-detected and apparently asymptomatic adults with endomysial antibodies (EmA) benefit from a gluten-free diet.

    Photo: Mira HirismäkiThe research team included K. Kurppa, A. Paavola, P. Collin, H. Sievänen, K. Laurila, H. Huhtala, P. Saavalainen, M. Mäki, and K. Kaukinen. They are variously associated with the Tampere Center for Child Health Research, the Tampere School of Health Sciences of the University of Tampere and Tampere University Hospital, the Department of Gastroenterology and Alimentary Tract Surgery at Tampere University Hospital and School of Medicine, University of Tampere, the UKK Institute in Tampere, Finland, the Research Program Unit of the Immunobiology and Haartman Institute at the Department of Medical Genetics of the University of Helsinki in Helsinki, Finland, and the Department of Gastroenterology and Alimentary Tract Surgery, Tampere University Hospital and School of Medicine, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland and Seinäjoki Central Hospital, Seinäjoki, Finland.

    For their study, they conducted a prospective trial of 3031 individuals at risk for celiac disease based on screens for EmA. They found 40 of 148 seropositive individuals who fulfilled inclusion criteria. They randomly assigned the 40 patients to groups receiving either a gluten-free diet, or a gluten-containing diet.

    They then evaluated ratios of small-bowel mucosal villous height:crypt depth, serology and laboratory test results, gastrointestinal symptom scores, physiologic well-being, perception of health by a visual analog scale, bone mineral density, and body composition at baseline and after 1 year. From that point on, they switched the group on the gluten-containing diet to a gluten-free diet, evaluated them a third time. Patients in the first gluten-free diet group remained on that diet.

    After 1 year on the gluten-free diet, the mean mucosal villous height:crypt depth values increased (P < .001), levels of celiac-associated antibodies decreased (P < .003), and gastrointestinal symptoms improved compared to patients on gluten-containing diets (P = .003).

    The gluten-free diet group showed less indigestion (P = .006), reflux (P = .05), and anxiety (P = .025), and better overall health, based on the visual analog scale (P = .017), compared gluten-containing diet group.

    Only social function scores improved more in the gluten-containing diet group than in the gluten-free diet group (P = .031). There were no differences between groups in terms of lab test results, bone mineral density, or body composition.

    Most measured parameters improved when patients in the gluten-containing diet group were placed on gluten-free diets.

    No subjects considered their experience to be negative and most expected to continue eating gluten-free.

    The results show that a gluten-free diet benefits asymptomatic EmA-positive patients, and show the benefits of actively screening patients at risk for celiac disease.

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    The abstract appears to be inconsistent. If all patients were asymptomatic to begin with neither groups should show improvement in well being such as gastric symptoms.

    It appears to me that the study included patients who were in fact symptomatic but were not aware how symptomatic they were until they went on gluten-free diet. This is common. Also some of the patients had obvious changes in the mucosa, which improved with gluten-free diet. These patients obviously benefit from a gluten-free diet.

    From this abstract I question if the study has some flaws and if gluten-free diet is indicated based on the results particularly if lab tests stay the same regardless of diet.

     

    If the my conclusions are wrong, I would welcome the opportunity to see further details of the study.

     

    On a different note, I am aware of a study that was posted on this site, which I found to be conducted in a better way and the researchers came to the conclusion that it is questionable if gluten-free diet is in fact beneficial for asymptomatic patients. In fact some patients (females more than males) serology improved even with gluten containing diet.

    We have to consider that gluten-free diet has social risks and financial implications therefore I think that it is important to continue studying this subject.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in biology, anatomy, medicine, and science. He previously served as Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and provided health and medical content for Sharecare.com.

    Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book Dangerous Grains by James Braly, MD and Ron Hoggan, MA.

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    Scott Adams
    The following Medline abstract describes a unique study that was done on the quality of life of two groups of people with celiac disease: One that was diagnosed as the result of having symptoms, and the other which had little or no symptoms and whose diagnosis was reached via screen-detection. Both groups were treated for one year with a gluten-free diet, and were then studied to determine their overall response, including their psychological response. Here is the abstract:
    Eff Clin Pract 2002 May-Jun;5(3):105-13
    Mustalahti K, Lohiniemi S, Collin P, Vuolteenaho N, Laippala P, Maki M.
    Department of Pediatrics, Tampere University Hospital, Finland.
    CONTEXT: Since the advent of serologic testing for celiac disease, most persons who receive a diagnosis of celiac disease have few or no symptoms. Although pathologic changes of celiac disease resolve on a gluten-free diet, how a gluten-free diet affects the quality of life for patients with screen-detected celiac disease is unclear.
    OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the effect of a gluten-free diet on the quality of life of patients with screen-detected celiac disease.
    DESIGN: Prospective study of patients before and 1 year after initiating a gluten-free diet.
    PARTICIPANTS: 19 patients with screen-detected celiac disease (found by serologically testing first-degree relatives of celiac patients) and 21 consecutive patients with symptom-detected disease. In all cases, celiac diagnosis was confirmed by finding villous atrophy and crypt hyperplasia on small-bowel biopsy.
    INTERVENTION: Gluten-free diet (explained during a single physician visit). MAIN OUTCOME
    MEASURES: Gastrointestinal Symptoms Rating Scale (GSRS), in which scores range from 0 to 6 (higher scores represent worse symptoms); and quality of life measured with the Psychological General Well-Being Questionnaire (PGWB). Scores range from 22 to 132 (higher scores mean greater well-being).
    RESULTS: At baseline, patients with symptom-detected celiac disease had poorer quality of life and more gastrointestinal symptoms than those with screen-detected celiac disease. Reported compliance with the gluten-free diet was good. All mucosal lesions of the small bowel had resolved at the follow-up biopsy. After 1 year of following the diet, quality of life for patients with screen-detected disease significantly improved (mean PGWB score increased from 108 to 114; P
    CONCLUSIONS: Gluten-free diet was associated with improved quality of life for patients with symptom-detected celiac disease and patients with screen-detected celiac disease. Concerns about the burden of a gluten-free diet, at least over the short term, may be unfounded.
    PMID: 12088289


    Jefferson Adams
    Study Supports Gluten-free Diet for 'Potential' Celiac Disease Patients
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    American Chemical Society Journal of Proteome Research

    Jefferson Adams
    Gluten-free Diet Benefits Newly Screened Older Celiac Disease Patients
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    Jefferson Adams
    Can Online Intervention Help Improve Gluten-free Diet Adherence in Adults with Celiac Disease?
    Celiac.com 05/08/2013 - A team of researchers recently set out to test determine if an interactive online intervention might help to improve gluten free diet adherence in adults with celiac disease.
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