Coeliac disease and Osteoporosis

Coeliac disease and Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is the thinning of bones which makes them more fragile and prone to breaking following a small fall or bump.

Our bones consist of two types of cells; the first set builds new bone whilst the second set demolishes old bones. After middle age (35-55), bone loss increases as part of the ageing process. This can lead to osteoporosis and an increased risk of fracture, particularly in women, due to accelerated bone loss at the menopause. It is still not fully understood why this happens.

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Although our bone health is mainly genetically conditioned, there are other factors that can put some people at greater risk, for example, people with conditions which affect absorption of nutrients from food such as coeliac disease.

As many as 50% of people with coeliac disease may develop osteoporosis and more than 75% of untreated adults with coeliac disease may have a reduced bone mineral density (BMD). Therefore, it is recommended that adults with coeliac disease have a higher daily calcium intake to help reduce their risk. Your dietitian can help with this by assessing the current level of calcium in your diet. An easy way to increase your level of calcium is to include calcium-rich foods in a well-balanced diet such as:

  • Dairy products (try to aim for lower fat versions)
  • Tinned fish
  • Dark green leafy vegetables
  • Pulses (e.g. red kidney beans, baked beans)
  • Fortified gluten free products

One of the benefits of treatment with a gluten free diet in symptomatic children with coeliac disease before puberty is the potential for bone remineralisation.