Background/aims: Osteopenia is a common complication of celiac disease. The aims of this study were to evaluate whether treatment produces bone remineralization and whether calcium and vitamin D supplementation are necessary to reduce osteopenia.
Methods: Bone mineral density and biochemical parameters of bone and mineral metabolism were measured in 14 newly diagnosed adult celiac disease patients. All patients were treated with a gluten-free diet and were randomized to receive diet only (n = 7) or diet plus calcium (1.0 g/day) and vitamin D (32,000 IU/wk) supplementation (n = 7). Bone density was measured at baseline and at 6 and 12 months of follow-up. Tests for biochemical determinations were repeated every 3 months.
Results: At diagnosis, 11 patients had evidence of osteopenia (> 1 SD below normality) in the spine and total skeleton. After 12 months of gluten restriction, overall bone mass had increased 5.0% (p < 0.01) in the lumbar spine and 5.0% (p < 0.002) in the total skeleton. When one only considers those 11 patients who strictly followed gluten restriction, bone density increased 8.4% in the lumbar spine and 7.7% in the total skeleton. Remineralization occurred throughout the skeleton but was more pronounced in the axial than in the peripheral skeleton. The increase in bone mass was independent of age or menopause. Remineralization in patients treated with diet only was similar to that of patients treated with diet and supplements. Basal biochemical parameters showed a high bone turnover with secondary hyperparathyroidism. Treatment induced a decrease in bone turnover activity. However, a complete restoration of biochemical parameters was not achieved.
Conclusions: Strict gluten avoidance promoted a significant increase in bone mineral density. However, values still remain markedly low after 1 yr in several patients. Although calcium and vitamin D supplementation did not provide additional benefit to that obtained by diet alone in the doses administered, our results do not preclude a possible effect of vitamin D at higher dose.