“Is There a Downside to Going Gluten-Free if You’re Healthy?” Yes

From NY Times: Is There a Downside to Going Gluten-Free if You’re Healthy?

Yes. This short commentary explains a lot of reasons why going gluten-free is not a great idea for healthy individuals.

  1. Often, a gluten-free diet incorporates more fat, more sugar, more salt and less fiber –all bad for your health.  A gluten-free diet can increase the risk of weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
  2. A gluten-free diet may make definitive testing for celiac disease inaccurate after more than a few weeks.
  3. “While much has been written in books and online sources about the purported benefits of avoiding gluten, such as weight loss, cognitive well-being and overall wellness, these claims are not supported by evidence….Though some patients with irritable bowel syndrome, or I.B.S., may see symptoms improve after cutting out gluten-containing foods, research suggests it’s likely to be a result of something other than gluten.”

My take (borrowed): “There’s no reason for someone who feels well to start a gluten-free diet to promote wellness,” said Dr. Benjamin Lebwohl, director of clinical research at the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University. “It is not an intrinsically wellness-promoting diet.”

Related blog posts:

 

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Does Celiac Disease Increase the Likelihood of Clostridium difficile infections?

Thanks to Mike Hart for the following reference:  Risk of Clostridium difficile in patients with Celiac Disease: A Population-Based Study B Lebwohl et al. AJG 2017; doi:10.1038/ajg.2017.400

Abstract

Objectives:

Patients with celiac disease are at increased risk for infections such as tuberculosis, influenza, and pneumococcal pneumonia. However, little is known about the incidence of Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) in patients with celiac disease.

Methods:

We identified patients with celiac disease based on intestinal biopsies submitted to all pathology departments in Sweden over a 39-year period (from July 1969 through February 2008). We compared risk of CDI (based on stratified Cox proportional hazards models) among patients with celiac disease vs. without celiac disease (controls) matched by age, sex, and calendar period.

Results:

We identified 28,339 patients with celiac disease and 141,588 controls; neither group had a history of CDI. The incidence of CDI was 56/100,000 person-years among patients with celiac disease and 26/100,000 person-years among controls, yielding an overall hazard ratio (HR) of 2.01 (95% confidence interval (CI), 1.64–2.47; P<0.0001). The risk of CDI was highest in the first 12 months after diagnosis of celiac disease (HR, 5.20; 95% CI, 2.81–9.62; P<0.0001), but remained high, compared to that of controls, 1–5 years after diagnosis (HR, 1.85; 95% CI, 1.22–2.81; P=0.004). Among 493 patients with CDI, antibiotic data were available for 251; there were no significant differences in prior exposures to antibiotics between patients with celiac disease and controls.

Conclusions:

In a large population-based cohort study, patients with celiac disease had significantly higher incidence of CDI than controls. This finding is consistent with prior findings of higher rates of other infections in patients with celiac disease, and suggests the possibility of altered gut immunity and/or microbial composition in patients with celiac disease.

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#NASPGHAN17 Celiac Disease and Mucosal Healing

This blog entry has abbreviated/summarized this presentation. Though not intentional, some important material is likely to have been omitted; in addition, transcription errors are possible as well.

Celiac disease: treat to target! Where should we aim and how do we get there?

Ivor Hill  Nationwide Children’s Hospital

Key point:

  • Dr. Hill asserted that long-term outcomes are related to ongoing intestinal inflammation and thus our goal should be mucosal healing rather than normalized symptoms/normalized serology

At this lecture, I asked Dr. Hill what he would recommend for an asymptomatic pediatric patient with ongoing intestinal inflammation who was strictly adherent to a gluten-free diet, who had no other recognizable diseases, and who had normalized their serology on treatment.  His response was that in adults that ~50% of patients improve with better attention to diet.  Thus, currently besides further dietary scrutiny, it is unclear what should be done in the pediatric population should one find ongoing mucosal disease in an asymptomatic adherent patient.

My take: Until prospective pediatric studies are published to determine the frequency of ongoing intestinal inflammation in those on a strictly GFD in asymptomatic patients and until we have additional management options, it does not make sense to look for mucosal healing.  “Don’t hunt what you cannot kill.”

Related blog posts:

Disclaimer: These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition.

 

#NASPGHAN17 Annual Meeting Notes (Part 2): Year in Review

This blog entry has abbreviated/summarized this presentation. Though not intentional, some important material is likely to have been omitted; in addition, transcription errors are possible as well.

This first slide shows the growth in NASPGHAN membership:

Year in Review

Melvin Heyman  Editor, JPGN

This lecture reviewed a number of influential studies that have been published in the past year.  After brief review of the study, Dr. Heyman summarized the key take-home point.

 

NASPGHAN Postgraduate Course 2017 (Part 2): Celiac, Fad Diets, and H pylori

Over the next 2 weeks or so, I am posting my notes/pictures from this year’s annual meeting.  This post reviews the 2nd module from the postgraduate course.

This blog entry has abbreviated/summarized these presentations. Though not intentional, some important material is likely to have been omitted; in addition, transcription errors are possible as well.

Here is a link to postgraduate course syllabus: NASPGHAN PG Syllabus – 2017

Celiac Disease Diagnosis: ESPGHAN vs. NASPGHAN Guidelines

Michelle Pietzak   Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles

This lecture started with a succinct history of celiac disease, including discussion of the banana diet and the observation that wheat deprivation during World War II was associated with improvement in children with celiac disease. The sequential diagnostic recommendations of ESPGAN and NASPGHAN were reviewed.

Key points:

  • ESPGHAN 2012 guidelines separated children in two groups: symptomatic and asymptomatic.  The guidelines indicated that symptomatic children with high titer serology (TTG IgA >10-fold ULN and positive EMA) could be diagnosed without an intestinal biopsy.
  • ACG 2013 Guidelines: TTG IgA preferred serologic test if over age 2 years,  TTG IgA along with deamidated gliadin (IgG and IgA) recommend if younger than 2 years. Even if negative serology, a biopsy was recommended if significant suspicion of diagnosis.
  • NASPGHAN, AGA, ACG all recommend small bowel biopsy to confirm this lifelong condition
  • The speaker did not critically discuss the Leonard et al study suggesting that 19% of individuals had persisting enteropathy on a gluten fee diet (see previous posts below)
  • Jimmy Fallon: “10% of the population is allergic to gluten and 90% are tired of hearing about it”

Related posts:

Fad Diets: The Good, the Bad, and the Just Plain Ugly

Mark Corkins      University of Tennessee Health Science Center

Key points:

  • Fad diets driven in part by obesity
  • Gluten-free diet is the most trendy, ~30% of U.S. adults are ‘limiting’ gluten, though most do not understand what gluten is.  “Wheat Belly” book by Dr. William Davis has been influential despite lack of data.
  • According to marketing report, 35% who consumer gluten limited diet have no reason for this, 26% for ‘healthier option,’, 19% for ‘digestive health,’, 13% for weight loss, 8% for gluten sensitivity
  • Recommends: choosemyplate.gov. These feeding guidelines have been developed by nutrition experts.

Update on H pylori

Nicola Jones    Hospital for Sick Children (Toronto)

  • Reviewed current recommendations based on ESPGHAN/NASPGHAN 2016 recommendations.
  • The speaker indicates that upper endoscopy is recommended for initial diagnosis of H pylori but testing is not recommended for functional abdominal pain.  The lecture did not address the issue that there can be an overlap in the presentations of these disorders.
  • Adherence is crucial for adequate eradication
  • Newer studies show improved eradication rates for quadruple therapy (bismuth-based) & in U.S. this is recommended as first-line treatment unless resistance patterns are known (which could allow for triple therapy)

 

>99% Accuracy in Non-Biopsy Diagnosis of Celiac Disease

Another large study (KJ Werkstetter et al. Gastroenterol 2017; 153: 924-35) shows a high accuracy of diagnosing celiac disease (CD) without a biopsy when very high celiac titers are identified in symptomatic patients. A previous study (n=898) this year also showed similar findings: The Non-Biopsy Diagnosis of Pediatric Celiac Disease

The current study (2001-2014) identified 743 consecutive pediatric patients with positive celiac serology (TTG-IgA). Key findings:

  • If TTG-IgA was higher than 10-fold the upper limit of normal and a separate sample tested positive for endomysial antibodies, then non-biopsy approach had a positive predictive value >99.6%.  The authors utilized a variety of TTG-IgA assays.
  • The authors noted that HLA-DQ2/DQ8 typing did not improve the accuracy of CD diagnosis.  “Negative results for HLA-DQ2/DQ8 in patients with TGA or EMA positivity are most likely false negative …or due to very rare risk-allele combinations not recognized by the test systems.”
  • “At least 50% of affected children in clinical practice will benefit from this nonbiopsy approach, which reduces burden and risks of endoscopy and anesthesia” and is more cost-effective.

The authors’ conclusion: “allowing omission of biopsies enables a correct diagnosis of CD in symptomatic children if TTG-IgA exceed 10xULN and positive EMA-IgA confirms celiac disease autoimmunity in a second blood sample. If one of these criteria is not fulfilled, biopsy should be performed to confirm the diagnosis.”

My take: This study provides convincing data that CD diagnosis does NOT require an intestinal biopsy under specific conditions.

Related blog posts:

Disclaimer: These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition.

Followup Biopsies in Pediatric Celiac Disease?

Last December, this blog site discussed a widely-reported, provocative study suggesting that “1 in 5 pediatric celiac disease patients on gluten-free diet sustain persistent intestinal damage” (Are followup biopsies necessary for Celiac disease? Look beyond the headlines).

Apparently a great number of celiac disease (CD) experts took exception to the authors’ conclusion that “neither the presence of symptoms nor positive serology were predictive of a patient’s histology at the time of repeat biopsy. These findings suggest a revisitation of monitoring and management criteria of celiac disease in childhood.” 

A recent commentary (S Koletzko et al. JPGN 2017; 65: 267-9) from the CD working group of ESPGHAN critiques the limitations of the study. Limitations included the following:

  • Selection bias -70% of patients in this retrospective study had repeat endoscopy were symptomatic
  • Retrospective study
  • Including children with admitted non-adherence to gluten-free diet (GFD)
  • Including ~25% of children who were rebiopsied within 17 months of starting GFD
  • Lack of standardized tTG testing
  • Lack of blinding of pathologist

Their conclusions:

  • “We do not think that the data..give sufficient support…that routine biopsies should be performed in all children at diagnosis and after the initiation of GFD.”
  • The CD working group of ESPGHAN strongly advises against regular rebiopsy in children on a GFD…Re-endoscopy should be reserved for symptomatic patients–in particular when seronegative.”

The authors of the initial study (MM Leonard, A Fasano. JPGN 2017; 65: 270-1) were given an opportunity to defend their conclusions. Their commentary was much less provocative in my view, and titled: “Zero, One, or Two Endoscopies to Diagnosis and Monitor Pediatric Celiac Disease? The Jury is Still Out”

They note that there is a lack of data to know whether there are “no real clinical consequences” of persistent enteropathy, as stated by S Koletzko et al.  They state that until further research is completed a “personalized approach to follow-up care is needed.”  It is encouraging that they have started a prospective study to address the limitations of their retrospective study.

My commentary:

  • For patients with CD who are strictly-adherent, asymptomatic and with normal serology, repeat endoscopy is of questionable benefit.  If there are abnormalities in the histology, what is the appropriate intervention?
  • There has been a study (Gastroenterology 2010; 139: 763) which showed that mortality was NOT worsened in undiagnosed CD (identified by review of serology) in Olmstead County. In this population, the main long-term detrimental effect was reduced bone density. My inference is that for CD patients who are asymptomatic, particularly those with normalized serology, they are unlikely to have easily-identifiable adverse effects noted, even if their histology is abnormal.

My take (unchanged from last year): I think it is premature to recommend routine followup biopsies in asymptomatic patients with normal serology.

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