Patients with coeliac disease may present with calcium malabsorption but it is unclear whether this results in longterm impairment of bone mineralisation. Dual energy x ray absorptiometry (DXA) was used to study bone mineral density in 34 asymptomatic coeliac disease patients, treated with a gluten free diet for at least two years, and also in 10 newly diagnosed or untreated patients. As expected, untreated patients had low bone mineral density in all regions. In the 29 treated female coeliac disease patients, overall mean values for age adjusted bone mineral density expressed as Z scores were normal although there were many patients with low values, particularly of the lumbar spine and total body. Scores in the postmenopausal patients were significantly worse than in the premenopausal patients and low mean Z scores were found in the five treated male patients. The subjects who had reduced bone mineral density could not be predicted clinically but, despite being asymptomatic, were more likely to have subtotal or partial villous atrophy on small intestinal biopsy (p < 0.0275). In conclusion, although many treated coeliac disease patients have normal bone mineral density, suboptimally treated and newly diagnosed or untreated patients have osteopenia. To reduce the risk of osteoporotic fractures, it is recommended that bone mineral density be measured in all treated coeliac disease patients and those with osteopenia have a repeat intestinal biopsy to assess disease activity.
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