Weight has been a primary indicator for diagnosing (or being willing to test for) celiac disease in children for years. Medical practitioners are often willing to test underweight children for celiac, but for overweight kids, it can be a tougher sell.
In the article published this week by BMC Pediatrics and titled Body mass index is not a reliable tool in predicting celiac disease in children, researchers say doctors should reconsider putting so much weight on a child’s weight when deciding whether to test for celiac disease.
Research on Celiac Diagnosis and Weight in Kids
Using information from from the ETICS Study (Exploring the Iceberg of Celiacs in Sweden), Swedish researchers looked at the records of 239 12-year-old children diagnosed with celiac during the time of the study. The full study had 12,000+ kids enrolled. Researchers wanted to know if they were underweight, had normal weight or were overweight at the time of diagnosis to determine if weight is an indicator of celiac disease.
What it found was doctors shouldn’t use a child’s weight or BMI as an indicator for celiac. “The majority of the children with screening-detected celiac disease were of normal weight and there was no association between being underweight and the risk of having undiagnosed celiac disease.” But looking at it from the other side, the report also says if a child has a normal weight or or is overweight, that doesn’t mean they don’t have celiac either.
Researchers did briefly touch on height. “At a population level, the 12-year-old children with screening-detected celiac disease weighed less and were shorter compared to their peers without celiac disease, and this indicates a need to detect and treat celiac disease. However, at the individual level growth parameters are not reliable in predicting celiac disease.”
Bottom line: if your child is underweight and you suspect celiac disease, by all means have them tested. I think this study says that if the medical professional is using weight as a reason not to test for celiac, that should be questioned. This research could be good to give a doctor if he or she won’t test your child for celiac simply based on weight.
If you would like to see all of the details on the median weight and height of boys and girls in this study or other details, I encourage you two read the whole report here.