A study of children with celiac disease who live in northwestern Canada has found that between 30 and 35 percent of them have bones that are in poor health.
Optimal bone health depends on getting sufficient levels of calcium and vitamins D and K. Calcium and vitamin K may be consumed through foods, but vitamin D is primarily produced when we are exposed to the sun.
In the University of Alberta study, the vitamin K levels of the 43 participating children were a bit low, but the children were able to improve those by eating foods such as leafy green vegetables. However, the children live in northern Alberta, where they get only a few months a year of adequate sun exposure, which explains the lack of sufficient vitamin D.
Diana Mager, one of the study’s main researchers, told Allergic Living that this deficiency would probably extend to other children with celiac disease who don’t have adequate sun exposure: “I would expect to see the same effects of reduced sunlight exposure and suboptimal vitamin D status in other parts of Canada and in the northern United States,” she said. “Suboptimal vitamin D status is highly prevalent in North America.”
Mager also says that since much of the human skeleton is formed during childhood, lack of essential nutrients could present problems down the line. She cautioned parents of children who may be at risk of celiac disease to pay attention to their kids’ bone health. “Children with celiac disease may appear to be growing well but they can still have very bad bone health,” she said.