Low plasma cholesterol: a correlate of nondiagnosed celiac disease in adults with hypochromic anemia

Am J Gastroenterol. 1999 Jul;94(7):1888-91. doi: 10.1111/j.1572-0241.1999.01225.x.


Objective: Hypochromic anemia is at times attributable to nondiagnosed celiac disease. The aim of this study was to define the correlates of celiac disease in anemic adults without overt malabsorption.

Methods: One hundred patients with hypochromic anemia and without diarrhea underwent a complete diagnostic work-up, including screening for celiac disease, i.e., upper endoscopy with duodenal biopsy and search of antiendomysium antibodies.

Results: Patients with hypochromic anemia were from two different Divisions and were analyzed as a single group because they were not significantly different for any variable. Hypochromic anemia was attributable to celiac disease in 10 patients. Compared to anemic patients without celiac disease, anemic patients with celiac disease had significant or borderline significant differences for plasma cholesterol (-17.9%), albumin (-9.4%), and body mass index (-11.8%), but not for gender distribution, age, weight, height, blood hemoglobin, mean corpuscolar volume, plasma iron, and ferritin. All anemic patients with celiac disease had plasma cholesterol < 156 mg/100 ml. Within the entire cohort of anemic patients, plasma cholesterol inversely related to prevalence of celiac disease (p < 0.001); also plasma albumin and body mass index inversely related to celiac disease, but coefficients were borderline significant (p = 0.056 and 0.052, respectively).

Conclusions: The data suggest that among patients with hypochromic anemia, plasma cholesterol in the high-to-normal range could be used to exclude the presence of celiac disease. Other nutritional markers are less sensitive as indices of risk of celiac disease. Hematological indices are not of help to define the risk of celiac disease in anemic patients without signs of malabsorption.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anemia, Hypochromic / etiology*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Celiac Disease / blood
  • Celiac Disease / complications
  • Celiac Disease / diagnosis*
  • Cholesterol / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors


  • Biomarkers
  • Cholesterol