A gluten-free diet is the standard approach for people with celiac disease, or gluten sensitivity. Gluten is the collective name for a group of proteins found in wheat, barley, rye and oats foods.
But after sticking rigidly to the diet for more than two years, around 20 per cent still had intestinal abnormalities that were picked up by biopsies.
Researchers at the General Hospital for Children in Boston made the discovery when they monitored the progress of 103 children and adolescents with celiac disease. The children had followed a gluten-free diet for an average of 2.4 years, and 90 per cent had done so religiously.
But biopsies revealed that 20 per cent of the children still had gut abnormalities or enteropathy, which are typical internal signs of gluten sensitivity.
The diet can help the sufferer become symptom-free, and the condition can even seem to be under control according to the standard IgA tests, and yet still have the damage to the gut, say the researchers.
Nobody is sure what the significance of the damage means, but it could cause further complications in the future and even affect growth in the young sufferer, said lead researcher Dr Maureen Leonard.