While the perception may be that celiac disease affects only underweight kids, a new study indicates that heavier set children are susceptible as well. Celiac disease is based on a gluten intolerance that triggers a response in the small intestine. The condition makes it hard to digest food properly, and causes the immune system of suffers to react via their bowels. As the disease destroys the lining of intestines over time, this prevents the body from attaining much-needed vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients it requires.
“Being overweight certainly does not exclude the diagnosis, as this paper shows,” said Dr. Peter Green, director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, who was not involved in the new study.
Data of 1,527 overweight and obese children and youth between two and approximately 24 years of age was reviewed from a nutrition center at the University of Rome between 1998 and 2003. Published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, one percent of those studied tested positive for celiac disease through blood work, and damage to their small intestines. Individuals were then encouraged to start a gluten-free lifestyle. Once they established a focus on their diet, the youth reported far less issues with their celiac condition, and weight-loss.
“There are two things when you go on a gluten free diet,” said Green. “You need to learn what to avoid and what to eat. Patients will often get information on how to make a gluten-free diet a healthy diet.”
Green noted that those who suffer from celiac disease should first seek the advice of a professional nutritionist. Doing so will assist them to gain greater insight when making gluten-free dietary choices, to ensure they reach for healthier food options. He also states the value of not jumping to celiac assumptions based solely on an individual’s weight – whether you are a doctor, or not.
“The clinical manifestations are very diverse,” he said. “Physicians just looking at a patient can’t say they couldn’t have it if they’re overweight or tall.”