Effects of the Gluten-free Diet on Body Mass Indexes in Pediatric Celiac Patients

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Objective:The aim of the study was to determine the effects of the gluten-free diet (GFD) on body mass indexes (BMIs) in children with celiac disease at University of Chicago before and after 2011, when processed gluten-free foods became readily available on the market.Methods:We conducted a retrospective chart review of children seen at University of Chicago Celiac Center from January 2002 to May 2016. BMI was recorded upon GFD initiation in addition to at least 1 other timepoint: 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, and 4+ years. We compared the rate of BMI increase in children who were diagnosed before versus after 2011.Results:A total of 147 children (66% girls) with biopsy-confirmed celiac disease were included in the study. The mean BMI at diagnosis was 17.8 (standard deviation 3.9) for those diagnosed before 2011 and 17.1 (standard deviation 2.7) for those diagnosed after 2011. Based on a mixed-effects random-intercept random-slope regression model, there was no evidence for significant difference in BMI change over time between the 2 groups (P value = 0.36). BMI values overall were noted to increase after starting the GFD, even at the first appointment. Serologies were monitored after patients started the GFD and approached normal values, allowing us to conclude that patients were adherent to the GFD.Conclusions:Although overall we observed no significant changes in BMI before and after 2011, we did notice that in adolescent celiac patients there was a trend toward a higher postdiagnosis BMI in the years after 2011. We speculate that teenagers may be especially vulnerable to choosing quick and easy processed gluten-free options over more healthy, natural alternatives leading to a rise in their BMIs after the 2011 surge in production of processed gluten-free foods on the market. Therefore, special attention must be paid to this population to insure ongoing healthy food choices even after many years on the GFD.

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