Long-term damage to the
intestines could raise the risk of hip fractures in people with celiac disease,
a new study suggests.
However, the research,
published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism,
also found that the risk was lower in celiac disease patients who ate a
gluten-free diet and whose intestinal tissue had begun to heal.
confirmed that patients had a higher rate of hip fractures when tissue damage
persisted over time," study author Dr Benjamin Lebwohl, of the Coeliac
Disease Centre at the Columbia University Medical Centre, said in a journal
news release. "Sticking to a gluten-free diet is crucial for minimizing
tissue damage and reducing the risk of a serious fracture that could cause
What is coeliac disease?
Celiac disease is an
autoimmune disorder that affects about 1 percent of people in the United
States, according to the researchers. People with the condition have an immune
response in the small intestine when they eat the protein gluten, which is
found in grains such as wheat.
It's known that people with
coeliac disease are at heightened risk for broken bones, but it wasn't clear if
their fracture risk remained high long after they began a gluten-free diet, the
Read: Coeliac and Crohn's disease share genetic risk factors
In this study, Lebwohl and
his colleagues analysed intestinal tissue samples from more than 7 100 people
in Sweden who were diagnosed with coeliac disease between 1969 and 2008. They
underwent follow-up intestinal biopsies within five years of diagnosis, and 43%
were found to have persistent damage in the small intestine.
All the patients had a
similar risk of hip fracture at the time of the follow-up biopsy, the study
found. But those with persistent intestinal damage had a greater risk five
years after the follow-up biopsy, indicating a higher long-term risk.
debated whether people with coeliac disease actually benefit from a follow-up
biopsy to determine the level of tissue healing taking place," Lebwohl
said. "These findings suggest that a follow-up biopsy can be useful for
predicting complications down the road."
Read: Birth month linked to coeliac disease
Lebwohl's colleague Dr Jonas
Ludvigsson, of Karolinska University Hospital and the Karolinska Institute in
Stockholm, Sweden, also weighed in.
"We believe that
giving the mucous membrane – the moist tissue lining the small intestine – a
chance to heal can lower the risk of complications, including bone fractures,
in coeliac patients," Ludvigsson said in the news release.
Coeliacs can eat gluten
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