People with celiac disease may be at increased risk for osteoporosis because their immune system attacks a protein called osteoprotegerin, which plays an important role in bone health, say U.K. researchers.
It had been believed that osteoporosis in celiac patients was caused by an inability to absorb calcium or vitamin D. This study found that 20 percent of celiac patients tested had antibodies that stopped osteoprotegerin from working effectively, BBC News reported.
"This is a very exciting step forward. Not only have we discovered a new reason to explain why osteoporosis occurs in celiac disease, but we have also found that it responds very well to drugs that prevent bone tissue removal," said lead researcher Professor Stuart Ralston, of the Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine at the University of Edinburgh.
"Testing for these antibodies could make a real and important difference to the lives of people with celiac disease by alerting us to the risk of osteoporosis and helping us find the correct treatment for them," he added, BBC News reported.
The study appears in the New England Journal of Medicine.