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Scientific study: predictors of compliance with a gluten-free diet in adolescents and young adults

January 2010 | 5 min read


A variety of factors can affect compliance to gluten-free diets, particularly among teenagers increasingly fed in settings other than at home (e.g., school). This study sought to identify factors related to compliance with the gluten-free diet in a cohort of teenagers with celiac disease. 

Key Points

Scientists studied 204 teenage patients living with celiac disease in southern Italy. The study examined a variety of clinical and blood chemistry tests; the patients were interviewed about school performance, social relationships, family integration, smoking habits and compliance with a gluten-free diet.

  • Study results found that 73.5% of the teenagers reported complete compliance with their gluten-free diets, while 26.5% reported occasional or frequent non-compliance.
  • Among those who were compliant with their diets over the last month, 74% were asymptomatic while 57.4% of non-compliant patients were asymptomatic.
  • Additionally, the diet did not appear to have an impact on family relationships: 88.7% reported good family relationships.
  • However, as many as 54% of patients reported some limitations in their social lives.
  • The authors concluded, “Optimal school integration significantly contributes to the likelihood of good compliance. A better understanding within the school environment about CD-related issues could improve motivation to adhere to a gluten-free diet.”

Key Takeaways

Teenage celiac disease patients who feel limited in their social expression, and particularly as it relates to poor school integration, may be less likely to comply with a gluten-free diet. Better communication between doctors, caregivers and school officials, as part of a patient-tailored intervention, may lead to increased compliance with a gluten-free diet.


Errichiello S, et al. Celiac Disease: Predictors of Compliance With a Gluten-free Diet in Adolescents and Young Adults. J Ped Gastroenterol Nutr, 2010; 50:54–60.