Children with celiac disease were the focus of a new study. Children with celiac disease were the focus of a new study. Children with celiac disease were the focus of a new study. (Photo: Littlekidmoment / Shutterstock)

With new research, a long-held belief about celiac disease is dispelled

Kids diagnosed with the illness were thought to be significantly shorter and leaner, but that may not be the case.

If you or your child are among the millions of people suffering from celiac disease around the world, you know it can be a very difficult journey: making sense of your symptoms, undergoing time-consuming tests, getting the right diagnosis, explaining the illness to others, managing your diet ... the list goes on. And then there's a concern about height and weight: that children with this autoimmune disease don't develop normally, and that this difference could affect them later in life.

But here's one bit of good news: A new study out of Israel says that although there may be a difference in height and weight among people with celiac disease as compared to their non-celiac peers, the difference is not significant. In other words, take a deep breath and carry on.

In the study, published in September in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, Dr. Amit Assa of Tel Aviv University led an 18-year analysis of about 2 million medical records of teenagers in Israel. About 10,000 of them had celiac. The team compared the height, weight and body mass index (BMI).

Child getting height checked by a doctor.A new study answers some vital questions about celiac disease in children. (Photo: Image Point Fr/Shutterstock)

Assa pointed out that any differences were negligible and does not mean that celiac patients are malnourished or underweight. “These findings are somewhat surprising as clinicians are under the notion that children with celiac are significantly thinner and shorter,” Assa told Reuters Health.

In addition to the growth findings, Assa's study also revealed that diagnosis of celiac disease has risen steadily in the past 18 years, from 0.5 percent of teens in 1988 to 1.1 percent in 2015. The researchers say that's due to growing awareness of the disease over the past several decades.

And fortunately for people with the disease, as awareness has increased, so has access to simple, affordable treatment. “Celiac disease is relatively easy to treat as gluten-free products are nowadays abundant,” Assa said. “Hence, a child on a strict gluten-free diet is, in fact, healthy and should have a normal life.”

And speaking of gluten-free diets, From The Grapevine's Israeli Kitchen has several gluten-free recipes that can help you plan days upon days of diet-adherent eating. Check out, for starters, Sarah Berkowitz's gluten-free banana bread (a must-have option for on-the-go fall breakfasts) and Anna Norris' dairy-free, gluten-free pumpkin bread pudding bites.

It's not technically 'bread pudding', but the custard-like flavor in this recipe is spot-onIt's not technically 'bread pudding', but the custard-like flavor in this recipe is spot-on. (Photo: Anna Norris)

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