Clinical Characteristics and the Dietary Response in Celiac Disease Patients Presenting With or Without Anemia

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Background and Aims:

It remains unclear as to what are the clinical characteristics associated with the presence of anemia at celiac disease diagnosis, and how these are affected by a gluten-free diet. We investigated these issues in a prospective study.


Clinical and demographic data, small-bowel mucosal histology, serology, and laboratory parameters, body mass index (BMI), and bone mineral density (BMD) both at diagnosis and after 1 year on a gluten-free diet were investigated in 163 adults with celiac disease. Gastrointestinal symptoms and psychological well-being were evaluated by validated Gastrointestinal Symptom Rating Scale and Psychological General Well-Being questionnaires. All study variables were compared between participants with and without anemia at celiac disease diagnosis.


Altogether, 23% of the patients had anemia at diagnosis. Anemic patients were more often women (P=0.001) and had more gastrointestinal symptoms (P=0.004) and were less often screen detected (P=0.009). Further, they had higher celiac antibody values (P=0.007) and a lower total iron (P<0.001), BMI (P=0.003), and density of mucosal γδ+ intraepithelial lymphocytes (P=0.033). After 1 year on a gluten-free diet, the anemia group had a lower mucosal villous height-crypt depth ratio (P=0.008) and BMI (P=0.050), and higher antibody values (P=0.012) and densities of CD3+ (P=0.008) and αβ+ intraepithelial lymphocytes (P=0.022). There was no significant difference between the groups in their bone mineral density, Gastrointestinal Symptom Rating Scale and Psychological General Well-Being.


Celiac patients with anemia had more severe disease than nonanemic patients in terms of the serology and a lower BMI. Further, they evinced a slower histologic response to the dietary treatment. An early diagnosis and careful follow-up are important in these patients.

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