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Celiac Patients Need B Vitamin Supplements, Researchers Say

Posted Aug 19 2011 3:03am

    As celiac disease research increases, I am constantly learning new ways of staying healthy with my gluten-free diet. As an author, researcher, and celiac and gluten-free advocate, I know that maintaining a gluten-free diet ( and staying healthy can be challenging. For instance, it can be difficult getting all the nutrients you need when you cut out gluten from your life—even essential nutrients such as fiber and B vitamins. One of my major health concerns regarding a gluten-free diet is increased homocysteine levels. In fact, a study found that by taking B vitamin supplements,celiac patientscan reduce this risk.

    Celiac disease, an autoimmune disease caused by a reaction to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, affects about three million Americans. When somebody with celiac disease ingests gluten-containing food, the gluten causes damage to the small intestine, blocking the absorption of vital nutrients such as proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Celiac disease can eventually lead to serious health problems if not treated properly. The treatment is a gluten-free diet.

     Studies have shown that too much homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood, is related to a higher risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease. Other evidence suggests that homocysteine may have an effect on atherosclerosis by damaging the inner lining of arteries and promoting blood clots. A direct causal link, however, hasn’t yet been established.

     Celiac patients are more likely than others to suffer from nutrient deficiencies and poor health on a gluten-free diet.Gluten-free substitutes and productsare often low in B vitamins, calcium, vitamin D, iron, zinc, magnesium, and fiber as very few gluten-free foods are not fortified with these nutrients. When Swedish researchers studied adult celiac patients who had beengluten-freefor ten years, they found that half of them had vitamin deficiencies, including low levels of vitamin B-6 or folate, or both, and high levels ofhomocysteine, a risk factor for heart attacks, vascular disease, and strokes. Before the study, all the patients had biopsies to prove their intestines were in healthy condition, so these vitamin deficiencies could not be explained bymalabsorption.

     In the study that was conducted,celiac patientswere treated with not only agluten-free diet, healing their small intestine and increasing absorption of nutrients, but they were also given B vitamin supplements. It was found that those who took this supplement and maintained a gluten-free diet had significantly higher levels of B vitamins in the blood and lower levels of homocysteine, compared with a group who only maintained a gluten-free diet and another control group.

     Researchers, due to the results of this study, now say that B vitamin supplements
should be considered in disease management. In addition to your gluten-free diet, you should take B vitamin supplements daily, making sure to include vitamin B6, folate, and vitamin B12. Fortunately the celiac community now has this vital information, and as celiac research continues, we can look forward to more helpful data from researchers.


Tina Turbin ( )

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