Objectives: Iron and folate malabsorption are common in untreated celiac disease as the proximal small intestine is predominantly affected. Vitamin B12 deficiency is thought to be uncommon, as the terminal ileum is relatively spared. This study aims to investigate the prevalence of vitamin B12, deficiency in patients with untreated celiac disease.
Methods: Prospective study of 39 consecutive biopsy-proven celiac disease patients (32 women, seven men; median age 48 yr, range 22-77 yr) between September 1997 and February 1999. The full blood count, serum vitamin B12, red blood cell folate, and celiac autoantibodies (IgA antigliadin and IgA antiendomysium antibodies) were measured before and after a median of 4 months (range 2-13 months) of treatment with a gluten-free diet. In vitamin B12-deficient patients, intrinsic factor antibodies and a Schilling test, part 1, were performed.
Results: A total of 16 (41%) patients were vitamin B12 deficient (<220 ng/L) and 16 (41%) patients (11 women and live men) were anemic. Concomitant folate deficiency was present in only 5/16 (31%) of the vitamin B12 patients. The Schilling test, performed in 10 of the vitamin B12-deficient patients, showed five low and five normal results. Although only five patients received parenteral vitamin B12, at follow-up the vitamin B12 results had normalized in all patients. Acral paraesthesia at presentation in three vitamin B12-deficient patients resolved after vitamin B12 replacement.
Conclusions: Vitamin B12 deficiency is common in untreated celiac disease, and concentrations should be measured routinely before hematinic replacement. Vitamin B12 concentrations normalize on a gluten-free diet alone, but symptomatic patients may require supplementation.