(HealthDay News) — Growth monitoring programs may help identify children with celiac disease, according to a new study published in the March issue of JAMA Pediatrics.

The new study was led by Antti Saari, MD, of the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio. His team tracked the growth of 177 children from the time they were born until they were diagnosed with celiac disease.

The researchers found that screening children for five height- and weight-related differences in growth could be an effective means of spotting those with celiac disease. Using all five measures together was more effective than using one alone, Saari’s team noted. Compared to children in the general population, girls with celiac disease were shorter two years before their diagnosis, while boys were shorter one year before diagnosis.

“Growth failure remains an early and common feature in patients with celiac disease and an up-to-date growth reference and well-established growth-monitoring program could facilitate the early diagnosis of celiac disease,” the authors write.

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