Background : The safety of wheat-starch-based gluten-free products in the treatment of coeliac disease is debatable. Prospective studies are lacking.
Aim : To compare the clinical, histological and serological response to a wheat-starch-based or natural gluten-free diet in patients with newly detected coeliac disease.
Methods : Fifty-seven consecutive adults with untreated coeliac disease were randomized to a wheat-starch-based or natural gluten-free diet. Clinical response, small bowel mucosal morphology, CD3+, αβ+ and γδ+ intra-epithelial lymphocytes, mucosal human leucocyte antigen-DR expression and serum endomysial, transglutaminase and gliadin antibodies were investigated before and 12 months after the introduction of the gluten-free diet. Quality of life measurements were performed by standardized questionnaires and the bone mineral density was analysed.
Results : In both groups, abdominal symptoms were alleviated equally by a strict diet. There were no differences between the groups in mucosal morphology, the density of intra-epithelial lymphocytes, serum antibodies, bone mineral density or quality of life tests at the end of the study. Four patients on a natural gluten-free diet and two on a wheat-starch-based gluten-free diet had dietary lapses; as a result, inadequate mucosal, serological and clinical recovery was observed.
Conclusions : The dietary response to a wheat-starch-based gluten-free diet was as good as that to a natural gluten-free diet in patients with newly detected coeliac disease.