Background: In coeliac disease (CD) there is a permanent gluten intolerance requiring life-long adherence to a strict gluten-free diet (GFD). An inadequate diet increases the risk for long-term complications. Coeliac patients often have great difficulty in maintaining a strictly GFD. We aimed to study whether young adults with CD diagnosed before the age of 4 years have a better dietary compliance than patients diagnosed later in life.
Method: Twenty-nine adults with CD diagnosed in childhood were studied. They had had CD for 17-24 (mean 20) years. Their compliance to GFD was assessed using a questionnaire and serological markers (IgA and IgG anti-endomysium antibodies and IgA anti-tissue transglutaminase antibodies).
Results: At least 80% of the coeliac patients who had been diagnosed before the age of 4 years complied with the GFD compared to 36% of the CD patients older than 4 years at diagnosis (P < 0.05).
Conclusion: This is the first study to show that patients with CD diagnosed before 4 years of age keep to a GFD significantly better than patients diagnosed after 4 years. It is thus important to diagnose childhood CD as early as possible in order to minimize the risk for reduced well-being and other potentially serious complications in coeliac individuals on an inadequate diet.