Background: The association of celiac disease and insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus has been known for some time. In an attempt to clarify this association, the prevalence of celiac disease among diabetic children was determined, and the risk of insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus was defined in pediatric patients with celiac disease.
Methods: Ninety-three children with diabetes were analyzed for the presence of celiac disease-related markers (antigliadin and antiendomysial antibodies) and characteristic alterations in the intestinal mucosa. In another group, 93 children with celiac disease were screened for pancreatic autoantibodies and pancreatic beta-cell function.
Results: Among children with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, a 6.45% prevalence of celiac disease was observed, a value significantly higher than that found among healthy controls. In contrast, only three celiac disease patients showed potential autoimmunity toward the pancreatic beta cell, a proportion not significantly different from that in the general population. Additionally, no alteration of glucose metabolism was observed in the antibody-positive patients.
Conclusion: The increased risk of celiac disease among patients with diabetes requires a long follow-up to determine the presence of celiac disease markers among patients with diabetes, to avoid potential malignant disease derived from untreated celiac disease. In contrast, there is no evidence to support an increased risk of insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus among children with celiac disease. In accordance with the accepted influence of diet in the development of autoimmune diabetes, a hypothetical mechanism of protection against insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus that is mediated by environmental factors related to restricted diet is suggested in this population.