Celiac disease can also affect obese children

Celiac disease : it is not true that only underweight children suffer. Gluten malabsorption can also affect those who are overweight or obese , with the same odds as the rest of the pediatric population.

According to a study by the Department of Pediatrics of the La Sapienza University of Rome, published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, in fact, celiac disease could also occur in over-sized children and also with rather high percentages . This would say goodbye to the image of the child suffering from underweight and malnourished celiac disease.

And not only that: this investigation would also have shown that, alongside some more typical symptoms of celiac disease such as diarrhea, constipation, bloating and abdominal pain, delayed growth and familiarity, there are also other alarm bells such as unmotivated or frequent tiredness, the irritability and poor attention span and an iron deficiency.

THE STUDY – The researchers examined more than 1,500 children between the ages of two and 24 all with a weight above the norm, to evaluate a possible relationship of gluten intolerance with overweight or obesity. All were subjected to serological tests for the detection of anti-transglutaminase antibodies, which are typical of the disease, and, where necessary, also to an intestinal biopsy which in 17 cases confirmed celiac disease. In addition, screening on children and young people would also have credited the researchers’ hypothesis, highlighting, in the whole group, a prevalence of celiac disease of more than 1%, equal to that recorded in the general Italian population.

“The study allowed us to understand that celiac disease can also be associated in a widespread manner in the overweight pediatric population- explains Raffaella Nenna, pediatrician and main author of the research –and that a gluten-free diet, together with a follow-up adequate nutrition, it can promote the reduction of symptoms, together with the normalization of weight over time as demonstrated by subsequent clinical checksi “.


The analysis of the current blood seeking the presence of tissue transglutaminase or endomysial antibodies. If blood tests and symptoms suggest celiac disease, a gastroscopy with biopsy is done, which is used to check if the intestinal villi are damaged. The samples are taken with an endoscope which, starting from the mouth, passes through the stomach and reaches the small intestine.

Instead, a skin biopsy is used when a herpetiform dermatitis (which appears above all on the buttocks, elbows and knees and disappears following a gluten-free diet) is suspected, i.e. a symptom of celiac disease that occurs in the form of a rash, with blisters and itching. Herpetiform dermatitis is diagnosed with both skin biopsy and blood tests.


Early diagnosis

Last year, a blood test arrived at the Gaslini Institute of Genoa that allows you to diagnose the presence of celiac disease even before its most evident symptoms occur, therefore useful for screening if there is a genetic predisposition to the disease development.

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