Researchers at the Mayo Clinic recently found that nutrient deficiencies are often the only sign of celiac disease in undiagnosed adults. It is suspected that as many as 50 percent of adults with celiac disease are undiagnosed due to atypical symptoms.

There are many potential signs of celiac disease, but doctors often only look for “classic” signs that fit their preconceptions of what celiac disease looks like. They expect patients to be underweight with many deficiencies due to malabsorption and diarrhea, but patients may be quite overweight or struggling to lose weight. Though they are not losing calories, they are not absorbing the necessary nutrients.

This study included 309 newly diagnosed celiac patients matched by age with non-celiac participants from a nationally representative database. The researchers found that patients with celiac disease were significantly more likely to have low levels of iron, vitamin D, and zinc than the non-celiac control group. In addition, contrary to traditional assumptions about celiac disease and thinness, weight loss was seen in only 25.2% of diagnosed patients.

The researchers hope these findings will remind doctors to be on the lookout for low levels of vitamins and certain micronutrients, and to consider celiac disease as a possible cause of these deficiencies. It is critical for doctors to identify celiac disease in these patients in order to protect their intestines from further damage and prevent celiac-related complications from developing later on.

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