A lot of times, when I write about various disease related to celiac disease, I write about how bad things can get if you have untreated celiac disease. Gluten-free diet, voila, problems gone!
OK, so it’s not ever necessarily that easy. But one of the strongest motivators for some people to begin or stick with a gluten-free diet (especially if they are fairly asymptomatic) is the belief that by listening to their body and avoiding gluten, they can help protect their health as they age. By and large, this belief is correct.
However, a new study out of the UK on osteoporosis and celiac disease merits close attention. Researchers were not, as far as I can tell, looking for undiagnosed celiac disease in the sample, but rather testing actively aware celiacs to see if they had osteoporosis. And they found them, lots of them.
Celiac.com has, as always, a good write-up of the study. They got their information from EndocrineWeb. Basically, what it boils down to is this scary statistic:
People with celiac disease are more than 4 times as likely as people without to have the low bone density that leads to osteoporosis.
The reasons for this are, presumably, logical. It could be that us gluten-free folk are deficient in Vitamins D and K, in part because we don’t eat all the “fortified” breads and cereals on the market, which often have added vitamins. It could be that many of us also avoid dairy, and don’t seek out adequate sources of calcium elsewhere. And of course, the fact that many people go undiagnosed for so long, and don’t absorb the nutrients they ARE ingesting, can’t be unrelated.
To me, the big takeaway here is that you can’t fix everything simply by avoiding gluten. It doesn’t guarantee you health and happiness, any more than a fortune cookie can predict your future. By and large, most people find themselves caught up in the inertia of healthy eating once they go gluten-free (don’t you think you pay more attention now than before?), but we still need to be careful that we’re not inadvertently putting ourselves at risk for other problems.
If you want to read up on osteoporosis, I’d suggest going over to the Mayo Clinic’s site. They do a good job of explaining medical issues, without being scary or searing your brain with really big, graphic photos.
How do you protect yourself with your diet?