Body mass index and the risk of obesity in coeliac disease treated with the gluten-free diet

Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2012 Mar;35(6):723-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2036.2012.05001.x. Epub 2012 Feb 8.


Background: Coeliac disease is increasingly diagnosed and weight changes are common after adoption of a gluten-free diet (GFD), however data on body mass index (BMI) changes are limited.

Aim: To assess changes in BMI after diagnosis in a large coeliac population.

Methods: A total of 1018 patients with biopsy confirmed coeliac disease seen at our centre were studied retrospectively. Initial and follow-up BMIs were recorded, as was GFD adherence as assessed by an expert dietitian.

Results: A total of 679 patients with at least two recorded BMIs and GFD adherence data were included in the study. Mean follow-up was 39.5 months. Compared to regional population data, the coeliac cohort was significantly less likely to be overweight or obese (32% vs. 59%, P < 0.0001). Mean BMI increased significantly after GFD initiation (24.0 to 24.6; P < 0.001). 21.8% of patients with normal or high BMI at study entry increased their BMI by more than two points.

Conclusions: Individuals with coeliac disease have lower BMI than the regional population at diagnosis. BMI increases on the GFD, especially in those that adhere closely to the GFD. On the GFD, 15.8% of patients move from a normal or low BMI class into an overweight BMI class, and 22% of patients overweight at diagnosis gain weight. These results indicate that weight maintenance counselling should be an integral part of coeliac dietary education.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Celiac Disease / diet therapy*
  • Diet, Gluten-Free / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Patient Compliance
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Reference Values
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Weight Gain