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Child Health – New Link Found Between Osteoporosis and Celiac Disease

Posted Nov 23 2009 10:00pm

By Colleen Hurley, RD, Certified kid’s Nutrition Specialist

Celiac disease, or gluten intolerance, is a genetic disorder in that induces an immune reaction in response to ingestion of gluten; a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Diagnosis of celiac disease can be tricky and is often discovered because of the secondary nutrient deficiencies associated with celiac disease like calcium. Calcium deficiency is common in celiacs resulting in a significant risk of osteoporosis. A new study reveals, however, that the association between celiac disease and osteoporosis is more than a matter of calcium absorption.

Celiac is an autoimmune disease, or a condition in which the body attacks itself. In the case of celiac, upon consumption of gluten, the body attacks the villi of the of intestines thus reducing nutrient absorption ability. According to the University of Edinburgh study that very autoimmune response found in celiac disease may also cause direct damage to the bone.

Researchers examined a protein called osteoprotegerin (OPG) in persons with celiac disease. In non-celiacs, OPG plays a vital role in bone health by maintaining the rate in which bone tissue is removed. The study found that 20% of celiacs produce antibodies that reduce the efficacy of the OPG protein, resulting in rapid bone destruction and ultimately osteoporosis.

Because of the degradation of the intestinal villi that occurs from celiac disease, it was previous thought that the prevalence of osteoporosis in celiac patients was due to malabsorption of calcium and vitamin D- 2 nutrients critical  to bone health. Researchers found that this form of osteoporosis, however, did not respond well to calcium and vitamin D supplementation although it can successfully be treated with medications to prevent bone loss.

It may seem like another health burden to celiacs; but the study provides valuable insight into causation of osteoporosis in celiacs, alerts physicians to test celiacs for additional antibodies, and  allows for the ability to alert celiac patients as well as physicians of osteoporosis risk while helping to pinpoint the proper treatment.
to bone health.

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