Celiac Studies

Three reports on celiac disease:

  • KM Simmons et al. J Pediatr 2016; 169: 44-8.
  • NR Reilly et al. J Pediatr 2016; 169: 40-54
  • MMS Wessels et al. J Pediatr 2016; 169: 55-60.

In the first study, the authors examined bone mineral density (BMD), glycemic control with hemoglobin A1c, and celiac autoimmunity in children with type 1 diabetes (T1D).  This was a cross-sectional study of 252 children with T1D; 123 had positive serology were anti-tissue transglutaminase (tTG) antibody.  In addition, another cohort (n=141) of children without T1D were examined who carried HLD-DR, DQ genotypes with (n=71) and without (n=70) tTG.  Key findings:

  • Children with T1D: those positive for tTG had significantly worse BMD L1-L4 (-0.45 ± 1.22 vs 0.09 ± 1.10, P= .0003).  Higher tTG and higher HgbA1c were independent predictors of lower BMI.
  • In children without T1D: no differences in BMD were found based on tTG status.
  • The authors concluded that celiac autoimmunity and hyperglycemia had synergistic effects on low BMD.

In the second study, the researchers used a population-based cohort study and compared 958 individuals with both T1D and celiac disease (CD) to 4598 similar individuals with T1D alone. Key finding: Over a 13 year period, 12 patients with both T1D and CD had a fracture (1 osteoporotic fracture). CD did not influence the risk of any fracture (aHR 0.77) in patients with T1D.  The researches concluded: “CD does not seem to influence fracture risk in young patients with T1D.”

My take: Looking at these studies in juxtaposition shows how important it is to consider multiple studies and how frequent discrepant results occur.  While the second study does not show a significant fracture risk, the preponderance of evidence does show an association between celiac disease and low BMD particularly in adults. In addition, a gluten free diet has been shown to reverse low BMD in those with CD.

Relevant studies:

  1. Gastroenterology 2010; 139: 763.
  2. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2000; 14: 35-43.
  3. JPGN 2003; 37: 434-6.
  4. Gut 1996; 38: 322-7.

In the third study, the investigators looked at “complementary” investigation in children with CD.  These included tests like hemoglobin, ferritin, folate, vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D, and thyroid assays.  Between 2009-2014, 182 children were evaluated included 119 with new diagnosis. Key findings:

  • At time of diagnosis: Iron deficiency (28%), iron deficiency anemia (9%), folate deficiency (14%), vitamin B12 (1%), and vitamin D deficiency (27%) were identified. No hypocalcemia or thyroid dysfunction was found.
  • At followup: iron deficiency (8%), iron deficiency anemia (2%), folate (3%), vitamin D (25%) were identified and no other abnormalities were evident.
  • The investigators concluded that these complementary tests “are relevant at the time of diagnosis of CD but have little diagnostic yield during followup-visits” after institution of gluten-free diet.

My take: Particularly at followup, identification of nutrient deficiencies is typically similar to the general population.

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Bionic Pancreas -It Works!

From 1974-1978, I watched “The Six Million Dollar Man.”  The premise of the show was that astronaut Steve Austin played by Lee Majors was rebuilt with bionic parts after a severe crash.  He worked for the government to stop the bad guys.

So, when I read about a “bionic” pancreas in a recent publication (NEJM 2014; 371: 313-25), I was definitely interested.  In this study, the bionic pancreas was a “fully automated, bihormonal” (administered both insulin and glucagon) device.  It consisted of an iPhone 4S and a G4 Platinum continuous glucose monitor which were connected by a custom hardware interface.  This study was feasible due to the availability of accurate continuous glucose monitoring allowing the development of a device to more precisely regulate glycemic control.

In this study, both adults (n=20) and adolescents (n=32) with type 1 diabetes were followed closely with either the bionic pancreas or a insulin pump.

Key finding: “as compared with an insulin pump, a wearable, automated, bihormonal, bionic pancreas improved mean glycemic levels.”

Bottomline: A bionic pancreas has the potential to be a significant upgrade from a standard insulin pump –patients with type 1 diabetes may no longer have to think about how to adjust their blood glucose.  While this bionic pancreas does not reach the promise of the 1970s show of ‘we can build him better than he was before,’ it does show that bionic parts and prosthetics are improving.  For those who want a video explanation –here’s a link to 3-minute video explanation from the inventor from Boston University.