(HealthDay News) — Asymptomatic individuals with endomysial antibodies (EmA) benefit from a gluten-free diet (GFD), according to a study published in the September issue of Gastroenterology.

Kalle Kurppa, MD, PhD, from the University of Tampere in Finland, and colleagues randomized 40 individuals who were at risk for celiac disease based on screens for EmA to a GFD or gluten-containing diet for one year. After the one-year evaluation, the group on the gluten-containing diet started a GFD, while subjects in the GFD group remained on this diet.

The researchers found that the mean mucosal villous height:crypt depth values increased (P<0.001), levels of celiac-associated antibodies decreased (P<0.003), and gastrointestinal symptoms improved to a greater extent after one year on the GFD vs. gluten-containing diets (P=0.003). There was also reduced indigestion (P=0.006), reflux (P=0.05), and anxiety (P=0.025), and better self-reported health (P=0.017) in the GFD group vs. the gluten-containing diet group. The gluten-containing diet group experienced more improvement in social function scores compared with the GFD group (P=0.031). Laboratory test results, bone mineral density, and body composition did not differ between groups. When patients in the gluten-containing diet group were placed on GFDs, most measured parameters improved.

“GFDs benefit asymptomatic EmA-positive patients,” the authors write. “The results support active screening of patients at risk for celiac disease.”

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