There were several great speakers, the keynote speaker being Dr. J. Murray from the Mayo Clinic. The speaker that grabbed my attention the most was Dr. Diana Mager. The Canadian Celiac Association provided her with a research grant and her ongoing study is Vitamins D and K and Bone Health in Children and Adolescents with Celiac Disease. Dr. Mager advised us that her research is ongoing. The following is a lay person’s summary of her preliminary findings.
As we all know there is an issue with malabsorption of nutrients in those who have CD. Of particular concern to her were Vitamins D & K as a lack of these nutrients can lead to metabolic bone disease.
Factors influencing bone health:
Vitamin D stimulates the body to build bone. We get Vitamin D from the foods we eat (dairy) and sunlight. A lot of children do not like to drink their milk and she commented that a lot of teens do not like to drink it as they believe it causes weight gain. Another reason we do not get enough Vitamin D was due to sunscreen. She DOES NOT advocate that we go outside without our sunscreen as then we are dealing with skin cancer; but, she does emphasize the need for Vitamin D supplementation. Apparently there will be new Vitamin D guidelines coming out in the fall to let us know what we need to be taking.
Vitamin K plays a critical role in blood clotting, regulates blood calcium levels and activates proteins involved in bone health. It is found in small amounts in the foods we eat but unfortunately it is not foods that children enjoy: green leafy vegetables. A quick Google search showed me the excellent sources of Vitamin K: spinach, Brussels sprouts, swiss chard, green beans, asparagus, broccoli, kale and mustard greens. Very good sources include green peas and carrots.
What happens when we don’t get enough of these nutrients due to malabsorption or refusal to eat them by our children is poor bone mass.
Of the children she studied she found that they were growing but not at optimal height based on parental height. She found that these children had poor bone mass for their age. An example given was she would x-ray a 9 year old child’s hand and find that it had the bone mass/development equivalent of a 7 year old. Around the age of 30 adults start to lose the bone mass that we build in our childhood years. If our children are already behind that puts them at a higher risk for bone fractures in their 30’s and 40’s.
Suggestions by Dr. Mager: have a bone density test conducted at the time of the diagnosis with follow up scans done to make sure that your child’s bone growth is on track. The test should be ordered by the child’s pediatrician. Dr. Mager stated that it can be challenging to get the message out within the medical community and that parents may need to advocate on their child’s behalf.
Bottom line: talk to your doctor, express your concerns, ask about supplements and if you wish to pursue it advocate for a bone density test.
One final note, this study was possible due two factors: fundraising efforts by the Canadian Celiac Association; specifically, Cycling for Celiacs that see riders trek 1400 km from Victoria to Edmonton in 11 days. My husband was a part of this amazing trip last year that raised $45,000 for research. All the gas, snacks and the majority of the food is all donated by members of the community. The second is becoming a member of the Canadian Celiac Association as a portion of membership/renewal fees are dedicated to research!
Angela Petrie is a gluten free consultant. She can be reached at 250-863-8123 or check out her website at www.glutenfreehelp.ca