Gluten-Free Products Are Insufficient Source of Folate and Vitamin B12 for Coeliac Patients

Martina Bituh1*, Vesna Žižić2, Ines Panjkota Krbavčić1, Zvonko Zadro3 and Irena Colć Barić1

1University of Zagreb, Faculty of Food Technology and Biotechnology, Pierottijeva 6,
HR-10000 Zagreb, Croatia
2Children’s Hospital Zagreb, Klaićeva 16, HR-10000 Zagreb, Croatia
3University of Zagreb, School of Medicine, Department of Anatomy, HR-10000 Zagreb, Croatia

Article history:

Received June 6, 2011
Accepted October 12, 2011

Key words:

gluten-free diet, homocysteine, vitamin B12, folate intake, coeliac disease


The gluten-free diet, the only treatment in coeliac disease, can be nutritionally unbalanced and deficient in several nutrients. Gluten-free products contain much lower levels of B vitamins, especially lower folate concentrations than their gluten-containing counterparts. Folate intake is considered as a major dietary determinant of plasma homocysteine concentration in healthy population. Elevated homocysteine is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease and has been associated with osteoporotic fractures, which are an increased risk factor in coeliac disease. The aim of this study is to determine dietary folate intake and plasma homocysteine concentration as metabolic markers of suboptimal intake of folate and B12 in Croatian coeliac patients living on a gluten-free diet. Subjects were 52 coeliac patients (83 % female, age 35±13) adhering to a gluten-free diet. Blood samples were analyzed for plasma homocysteine, serum and red blood cell folate and serum B12. Quantitative food frequency questionnaire was used to measure dietary folate intake. Mean dietary folate intake was 206 μg of dietary folate equivalents (DFE), which was far below the national recommendation of 400 μg of DFE (or 200 μg of folic acid). Mean homocysteine was (9±2) μmol/L (range from 5.42 to 13.90 μmol/L), while elevated homocysteine concentrations (>10 μmol/L) were found in 34 % of subjects. In conclusion, coeliac patients adhering to gluten-free diet included in this study showed low folate intake and suboptimal folate and vitamin B12 status, possibly due to low folate content in gluten-free products. Therefore, folate fortification or enrichment of gluten-free products could be beneficial for coeliac patients and it would be of great interest for the food industry.


*Corresponding author: 
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