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  • Jefferson Adams

    Nearly Half of Patients with Celiac Disease are Overweight or Obese at Diagnosis

    Jefferson Adams


    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Celiac.com 05/09/2012 - Weight loss is traditionally regarded as one of the classic symptoms of celiac disease. Recent studies suggest that people with celiac disease are far more likely to be obese than underweight at the time of presentation.

    Photo: CC--fbellonA research team recently set out to assess the frequency of obesity in newly diagnosed celiac disease.



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    The research team included Elizabeth Tucker, Kamran Rostami, Sudhakaran Prabhakaran, and Daivid Al Dulaimi. They are affiliated variously with the Institute of Health and Society of Worcester University, School of Clinical and Experimental Medicine in Worcester, the University of Birmingham, and the department of Gastroenterology at Alexandra Hospital in Redditch, in the United Kingdom.

    The research team wanted to assess the frequency of obesity in newly diagnosed celiac disease.

    To do so, they reviewed dietetic records and patient demographic of people with celiac disease, along with initial assessment date, and Body Mass Index (BMI) recorded and statistically analyzed.

    In all, they reviewed data for 187 celiac disease patients diagnosed between 1999 and 2009. Of those, 127 patients were female (68%) and 60 male (32%), a ratio of 2 to 1.

    Patients ranged in age from 18 to 87 years of age, with an average age of 54 years.

    BMI inter-quartile range (IQR) ran from 21.5 to 28.1, with an average BMI of 23.6. IQR was 21.8 to 27.3 for men, with an average BMI of 23.9.

    For females, the BMI IQR ran from 21.4 to 28.6, with an average of 23.2. Overall, 83 patients (44%) registered a BMI of 25 or above.

    The team found no significant difference gender, age or year of referral among patients with a BMI of 25 or above.

    Twenty-five patients (13 %) had a BMI of 30 or above. Of those, twenty were female, and ranged in age from 18 to 71 years old, with an average age of 56 years.

    In all, 11% of females registered a BMI of 30 or more, compared with only 3% males, a 5 to 1 ratio. Only 5 patients (3%) had a BMI below 18.5.

    They found that nearly half of those diagnosed with celiac disease registered with a BMI of 25 or over. Compared to males, females showed a wider range of BMI and were more likely to be obese, registering a BMI of 30 or more.

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    As someone recently diagnosed with celiac disease, I was actually glad to see this article. I have had active symptoms of this disease for about two years, and during those years I have steadily put on weight. I would love comments on people in the same situation and what they have done to get their weight back on track.

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    Guest suzanne gault

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    As someone recently diagnosed with celiac disease, I was actually glad to see this article. I have had active symptoms of this disease for about two years, and during those years I have steadily put on weight. I would love comments on people in the same situation and what they have done to get their weight back on track.

    My son is 18 and has been overweight most of his life. In 2010 we found out he was gluten intolerent. He is 6 feet tall and weighs 312 pounds. It has been my primary goal in life to help him lose weight. We record everything he eats and he works out at the gym at least 4 times per week. He rarely has an appetite and usually consumes 1800 calories per day...2000 on a good day. Does the gluten totally destroy the gut and the metabolism?

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    I, too, was overweight when first diagnosed - despite trying every diet going, and, really, not over-consuming in any shape or form. I also undertook regular exercise, but just kept gaining weight. On top of that I didn't have any classic symptoms of coeliac disease - I was the last person in my family to ever have 'digestive upsets'. True. But I did have a plethora of annoying and, up until that day unrelated, minor health issues. Then I had a violent reaction to an antibiotic and one of the many tests my doctor ordered was the blood test for coeliac. I laughed when she rang to tell me there was a possibility that I had coeliac disease. Wasn't that a condition of skinny, malnutritioned children? I was 48 and, well, fat! Further tests revealed major damage to my intestine and I immediately went gluten-free (I'm good at following diets), but to little avail. Nothing changed. After six months and some further research I chose to attempt the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, suspecting problems with Leaky Gut Syndrome. After a week of severe withdrawal symptoms, eating SCD became easy and I have now lost over 30kilos and have more energy and fewer health problems than I ever have in my adult life. celiac disease seems to impact people in so many ways... the image of the poorly child that I had is only one of them. Given the vast numbers of undiagnosed people we are told are out there, surely it is time for the education campaign regarding this disease to be stepped up?

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    My son is 18 and has been overweight most of his life. In 2010 we found out he was gluten intolerent. He is 6 feet tall and weighs 312 pounds. It has been my primary goal in life to help him lose weight. We record everything he eats and he works out at the gym at least 4 times per week. He rarely has an appetite and usually consumes 1800 calories per day...2000 on a good day. Does the gluten totally destroy the gut and the metabolism?

    Yes, this happened to someone I know. He needs to have all of his vitamins and minerals checked. He probably destroyed the lining of his stomach. He cannot absorb b12 through food. He has to get b12 shots; how long and how often will depend on if his stomach can repair itself. Also, the vitamins may need to be liquid and he will have to make sure they are gluten-free.

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    My sister and I both have celiac as does two of her three children. We had polar opposite symptoms. I was very skinny but my sister was obese. The more important information we need to understand is WHY, is there such broad spectrum of symptoms?

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    I have to put in my two cents. I have worked in health care for 7 years and have in that time seen an increase in the diagnosis of celiac disease. I have personally had a lot of health issues and at the age of 36 (2 months ago) I was diagnosed with the disease myself. Even though I work in the field I was in shock. I have had most of the symptoms for 20 years and never suspected because I'm overweight. No one would ever believe I'm malnourished. We need to spread the word. This isn't a skinny persons disease. When I tell people I have I frequently get looks of shock, disbelief, and have even had people accuse me of trying to get attention or making it up. If only they understood what I've gone through and how sick I've been for years. Please help me spread the word and educate people.

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    I too was gaining weight rapidly as I aged, gaining 20 lbs. in 2 years. When I told people I had celiac disease, they'd say "I thought that made you thin?" I'd joke back, "there's no wheat in candy!" Meanwhile, after 3 years almost, I've lost about 25+ and feel like I have my life back!

     

    Let me challenge readers here: stop cheating, you are killing your small intestine, which leads to other serious things. My mother died undiagnosed at 60. She had horrendous health, never felt good, and ended up with lupus, seizures, and liver failure. She always baked bread and rolls and was so ill she'd have to lie around. I teased her as a skinny teen calling her fat. My, don't we all have a lot to learn!

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    I have recently been diagnosed with celiac disease. After months of being ill, my first doctor dismissed it as a stomach bug and stress from my son dying. I was 140kg, which is why I could not have it according to my doctor, so i switched doctors and made him give me the blood test and biopsy. Low and behold... he explained to me that I was so overweight because I was not getting the nutrients I needed, which is why i was so hungry and kept eating. I have been gluten-free for 9 months and I am down to 85kg. My periods went from a 29 - 75 cycle to 28, no more miscarriages (of which I have had 5), no more bad mood swings or feeling so exhausted I could barely get out of bed.

    Good luck to all, don't give up! Make your doctor do what you want, they do not have all the answers if they will not let you supply evidence!

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    When we were cave men we didn't bake bread. I don't think our bodies are meant to digest all this gluten, let alone bad carbs and processed food. My sister just got diagnosed with this. I'm getting checked asap.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,500 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised 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 "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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