Effect of a gluten-free diet on growth and small-bowel histology in children with celiac disease in India


Dr Surender K Yachha, Department of Gastroenterology, Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Lucknow 226014, India. Email: skyachha@sgpgi.ac.in


Background and Aim:  Follow-up studies on growth and histological recovery of children with celiac disease (CD) while on a gluten-free diet (GFD) are lacking from Asia. We therefore assessed the effects of this diet.

Methods:  Forty-two children with CD were enrolled. Weight and height were expressed as weight for height (WfH) and height standard deviation scores (HSDS), respectively. Twenty-five children had repeated duodenal biopsies after 1–2 years and 14 had a third biopsy after 3–7 years of GFD. Compliance was checked by regular interview and IgA antiendomysial antibody estimation (EMA).

Results:  At diagnosis (n = 25), mean HSDS was −3.3 ± 1.6 with 76% having a HSDS of <−2; 60% were undernourished (WfH mean 81.6 ± 5.7). Over a mean follow up of 3.7 years, HSDS improved to −1.3 ± 1.7 and 84% cases achieved normal nutrition. Mean height velocity was 13.9 cm during first year and 5.6 cm in subsequent years. Small-bowel biopsies at diagnosis showed subtotal villous atrophy (Marsh IIIb) in 18 (72%) and partial villous atrophy (Marsh IIIa) in seven (28%) patients. Repeat biopsy at 1–2 years showed shift from subtotal to partial villous atrophy in 94% (n = 17/18) and normalization in one patient. In patients with Marsh IIIa improvement of partial villous atrophy was observed in all. Immunoglobulin A endomysial antibody was negative in 81%. Repeat biopsies at 5 years of GFD showed improvement to Marsh I–II, but none normalized.

Conclusion:  The majority of children with CD show normalization of nutrition and growth after GFD. Small-bowel histology improves markedly but does not normalize even after 5 years of GFD.