Objective: Iron deficiency anemia has been reported as the most frequent extraintestinal symptom in adult celiac disease. Prospective studies on the effect of gluten-free diet on recovery from iron deficiency anemia are lacking. The aim of this study was to verify in adult patients with celiac disease the efficacy of and the time course of recovery from iron deficiency anemia by a gluten-free diet alone.
Methods: We studied 190 consecutive adult patients with iron deficiency anemia, screened for celiac disease by duodenal biopsies. New diagnosed celiac patients were invited to follow a gluten-free diet alone without iron supplementation. After 6 months of diet, duodenal biopsies were performed and hematological tests were repeated at 6, 12, and 24 months.
Results: Celiac disease was diagnosed in 26 (24 women, 2 men; 13.7%) adult patients. After 6 months of gluten-free diet 14 of 18 (77.8%) female patients recovered from anemia, but only 5 of 18 (27.8%) reversed from iron deficiency. At 12-month control all but one patient (94.4%) recovered from anemia and 9 patients (50%) from iron deficiency. After 24 months of diet, only the patient who did not recover from anemia at 12-month control was still anemic, whereas 10 patients (55.5%) reversed from iron deficiency. A significant inverse correlation (r = -0.7141, p = 0.0003) between increase of Hb concentrations and decrease of individual histological scores of duodenitis was observed.
Conclusions: A screening for celiac disease should be carried out in adult patients with iron deficiency anemia. Recovery from anemia occurs between 6 and 12 months on a gluten-free diet alone as a consequence of normalization of histological alterations of the intestinal mucosa.