Identifying and improving adherence to the gluten-free diet in people with coeliac disease

Proc Nutr Soc. 2019 Aug;78(3):418-425. doi: 10.1017/S002966511800277X. Epub 2019 Jan 11.


Coeliac disease (CD) is an autoimmune gastrointestinal disorder whereby the ingestion of gluten, a storage protein found in wheat, barley and rye, causes damage to intestinal mucosa with resultant malabsorption, increased risk of anaemia and osteoporosis. Worldwide estimates suggest 1% of the population have CD. With no cure, the only treatment is a gluten-free diet (GFD). Adhering to a GFD can be very challenging; it requires knowledge, motivation and modified behaviours. Assessing adherence to a GFD is methodologically challenging. This review aims to provide an overview of the literature reporting adherence to a GFD in people with CD and the methodological challenges encountered. From six studies it has been reported that rates of adherence to a GFD range between 45 and 90% in patients of different ethnicities with CD. GF dietary adherence can be influenced by age at diagnosis, coexisting depression, symptoms on ingestion of gluten, nutrition counselling, knowledge of GF foods, understanding of food labels, cost and availability of GF foods, receiving GF foods on prescription and membership of a coeliac society. To date only five intervention studies in adults with CD have been undertaken to improve GF dietary adherence. These have included dietary and psychological counselling, and the use of online training programmes, apps, text messages and telephonic clinics. Future interventions should include people of all ethnicities, consider patient convenience and the cost-effectiveness for the healthcare environment.

Keywords: CD coeliac disease; GF gluten-free; GFD gluten-free diet; anti-tTG anti-transglutaminase antibodies; Adherence; Coeliac disease; Gluten-free diet.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Celiac Disease / diet therapy*
  • Diet, Gluten-Free*
  • Humans
  • Patient Compliance*