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Celiac and Obesity - The Truth About Following a Gluten-Free Diet 03/08/2010 - Celiac, a genetic autoimmune disease, has long been associated with a medical picture of patients that look underweight, and malnourished. However, recent studies are finding that obesity and a high BMI (Body Mass Index) may also be prominent in celiac patients. New studies were conducted to determine BMI changes after initiation of a gluten-free diet, and they offer clues to the importance of eating gluten free after being diagnosed with celiac disease.

Doctors at the Celiac Disease Center of Columbia University studied the BMI of 369 patients proven through biopsy to have celiac disease, spanning from 1981 to 2007. Men and women were evaluated separately for the sake of this study and the test patients were classified as “classical” meaning diarrhea prominent, or “atypical” meaning they had no diarrhea at the time of celiac diagnosis. Atypical patients were further divided into groups of 'anemia present' and 'no anemia present' at time of diagnosis. Body Mass Index was then categorized into four groups based on the criteria of the World Health Organization.

The BMI of all test celiac patients were compared to the general United States population. Using the regression model, the study found that there are obvious predictors for low BMI; patients classified as “classical” celiac, female, and with severe villous atrophy, were all revealed as predictors for low BMI. These findings further exemplify that the most dramatic changes in BMI rates were in underweight females with celiac disease. Celiac females had a considerably lower mean BMI than the general population, thereby indicating an important association between females with celiac disease and low BMI. In fact, celiac females that tested with a normal or low BMI were also found to have higher rates of critical villous atrophy than those with a higher BMI. However, more males with celiac were found to be overweight compared to the general population.

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After initiating a gluten free diet, most BMI changes were shown to be directly associated with an initial baseline appearance of “classical” symptoms. While on a gluten free diet, over 50% of the overweight and obese patients lost weight, and of the group who initially had a low BMI, 42.4% attained a normal weight. Thereby concluding that treatment of a gluten free diet after celiac diagnosis provides advantageous changes in BMI results. Further evidence of the importance in early diagnosis and prompt treatment of celiac disease.

Of course it is critical to note that, all the patients utilized for this study were monitored closely by a care center dedicated to celiac disease, and continually followed by an experienced dietician with expert knowledge of celiac disease. And, while you may not be able to afford the kind of dietician these patients were provided with, it is always very important to be under the care of a doctor or clinic dedicated to treating celiac disease, as well as to be receiving experienced dietary counseling when transitioning to a gluten free diet.

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5 Responses:

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said this on
01 Apr 2010 4:15:36 PM PDT
Just got diagnosed. This article could have been written about me. So grateful to have a diagnosis after being sick for so long with a laundry list of auto-immune disorders!

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said this on
03 Apr 2010 11:27:39 PM PDT
Which doesn't explain why the hell I GAINED weight after diagnosis, (both positive blood and biopsy), and continue to fight weight gain to this day. My initial diagnosis was confirmed only after a week of severe pain, diarrhea, and dehydration and the loss of 12pounds in 5 days. Since that time and going on the gluten free diet, I have gained 38 lbs. The only explanation I can offer is that I have other autoimmune disorders which are present but cannot be confirmed due to the lack of truly accurate testing procedures that are in use today. The doctors continue to suggest the possibility of scleroderma, mixed connective tissue disease, or lupis but nothing they can or will put a name to! The only other positive diagnosis is fibromyalgia which apparently is still quite the mystery to most medical professions.
Medications, used to fight continuing symptoms, are the other probable cause of weight gain, i.e., medications used to fight those horrible cramps that suddenly hit because of an accidental gluten contamination. Or in the epidural shots that I need every 3 months due to severe back problems. How about the medical researchers work on that correlation. I'm really resent being told by medical professionals that I need to LOSE THE WEIGHT while not offering help as to how. Hey, I know... I'll just eat a piece of bread!!! That should do the trick don't ya think!!!
Signed - Someone Who is sick and tired of being sick, tired in constant pain and depressed.

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said this on
29 Sep 2010 8:09:42 AM PDT
I wonder if you also have an (undiagnosed) thyroid disorder, as they seem to run together? A thyroid diagnosis can also be difficult to get if in fact your doctor goes by TSH values only. I have Hashimoto's and am finally on meds (many docs won't treat Hashimoto's) due to hypothyroid *symptoms* and very high antibodies. Some symptoms have went away...EXCEPT the weight gain...which lead me here (and terrible nighttime stomach pain). My niece with a thyroid problem just lost considerable weight going gluten (and dairy) free. You may have more than one issue going on. I wish you the best.

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said this on
20 Nov 2010 8:48:08 AM PDT
ColoradoSue - There are several meds used for fibromyalgia that most patients swear causes uncontrollable weight gain. Lots of docs don't acknowledge that side effect. Possible you may be on one or two of those? May be worth looking into. All our best to you!

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said this on
20 Jun 2012 4:59:16 PM PDT
I agree with Dea... you should get your thyroid checked. I hope you get some answers soon. It's hard living that way.

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