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The Gluten-Free Diet: A Nutritional Risk Factor for Adolescents with Celiac Disease?

Mariani, Paolo; Viti, Maria Grazia; Montouri, Monica; La Vecchia, Alessandra; Cipolletta, Elsa; Calvani, Luisa; Bonamico, Margherita

Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition: November 1998 - Volume 27 - Issue 5 - p 519-523
Original Articles

Background: The gluten-free diet is the standard therapy for patients affected by celiac disease, although compliance with the diet is not optimal in adolescents or adults. Moreover, the gluten-free diet may induce nutritional imbalances.

Methods: Alimentary habits and diet composition were examined in 47 adolescents with celiac disease and 47 healthy aged-matched control subjects. All subjects compiled a 3-day alimentary record that allowed determination of their energy intakes; the macronutrient composition of their diets; and their iron, calcium, and fiber intakes. To evaluate compliance with the gluten-free diet, immunoglobulin A antigliadin and antiendomysium antibodies were assessed in all with celiac disease.

Results: The analysis of the records and the results of antibody levels showed that 25 subjects strictly followed dietetic prescriptions (group 1A), whereas 22 patients consumed gluten-containing food (group 1B). Those with celiac disease and control subjects (group 2) consumed a normocaloric diet. Lipid and protein consumption was high, however, and the consumption of carbohydrates low. Moreover, dietary levels of calcium, fiber, and especially in girls, iron, were low. These nutritional imbalances were significantly more evident in group 1A than in group 1B, as a consequence of poor alimentary choices. Moreover, in group 1A overweight and obesity were more frequent (72%) than in group 1B (51%) and in the control subjects (47%).

Conclusions: In people with celiac disease, adherence to a strict gluten-free diet worsens the already nutritionally unbalanced diet of adolescents, increasing elevated protein and lipid consumption. In the follow-up of patients with celiac disease, considerable effort has yet to be made to improve compliance with a gluten-free diet, and especially to control the nutritional balance of the diet in compliant patients.

Istituto di Clinica Pediatrica Università "La Sapienza," Rome, Italy

Received October 7, 1997; revised February 12, 1998 and April 29, 1998; accepted May 14, 1998.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Prof. M. Bonamico, Via Manlio di Veroli, 3/5, 00199 Rome, Italy.

© 1998 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.