To determine the incidence of celiac disease in a group of nonselected children with short stature, duodenal biopsy was performed in 60 unselected children with short stature (below third centile) and absence of gastrointestinal tract symptoms. Examination revealed probable celiac disease in five children (8.3%). Analysis of the results of other tests that might possibly be considered as alternatives to biopsy (e.g., xylose test, antireticulin antibodies, gastrointestinal tract symptoms in the first two years of life, bone age, serum iron, iron load, triglyceride load) led us to conclude that no test or clinical measurement could have allowed us 100% certainty in making the correct diagnosis. None of the children with celiac disease had growth hormone deficiency. We conclude that asymptomatic celiac disease represents a cause of short stature that cannot be ignored, and that only by intestinal biopsy can all such patients be identified.