To evaluate the effects of a gluten free diet on bone mineral density in untreated adult patients with coeliac disease, 63 patients (17-79 years, 35 women) were examined at diagnosis and after one year taking a gluten free diet. Bone mineral density was measured in the forearm using single photo absorptiometry and in the lumbar spine, femoral neck, and trochanter using dual energy x ray absorptiometry. The values for each patient were compared with those of 25 healthy controls, matched for sex, age, and menopausal state. Before being given a gluten free diet bone mineral density in the total group was reduced at all sites (p < 0.001). Age adjusted bone mineral density was inversely correlated with age. During the first year taking a gluten free diet bone mineral density increased at all sites (p < 0.01). This was seen in patients of all ages and in patients who were without symptoms of malabsorption (weight loss or diarrhoea) before treatment. Low bone mineral density in patients with untreated coeliac disease increases rapidly when treatment with a gluten free diet is followed. These findings emphasise the importance of early diagnosis and treatment in all patients with coeliac disease.
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