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Forty five women and 10 men with coeliac disease diagnosed in adult life, who were already on a gluten free diet, had serial bone mineral density measurements at the lumbar spine and femoral neck over 12 months. Osteoporosis, defined as a bone mineral density (BMD) < or = 2 SD below the normal peak bone mass was found in 50% of male and 47% of female coeliac patients. Patients with a BMD < or = 2 SD below age and sex matched normal subjects, had a significantly lower body mass index (21.3 kg.m-2 compared with 25.2 kg.m-2, p < 0.02 Wilcoxon rank sum test) and lower average daily calcium intake (860 mg/day compared with 1054 mg/day, p < 0.05 Wilcoxon rank sum test) than patients with normal bone mineral density. In postmenopausal women with coeliac disease there was a strong correlation between the age at menopause and BMD at both the lumbar spine (r = 0.681, p < 0.01, Spearman's rank correlation) and femoral neck (r = 0.632, p < 0.01). No overall loss of bone was shown over the 12 months of follow up, and relative to the reference population there was a significant improvement in BMD at the lumbar spine in women (p < 0.025, paired t test) and at the femoral neck in men (p < 0.05, paired t test). There was a significant negative correlation between the annual percentage change in BMD at the lumbar spine and the duration of gluten free diet (r = -0.429, p<0.01, Spearman's rank correlation), with the largest gain in BMD in patients with most recently diagnosed coeliac disease. Osteoporosis was shown in 47% of patients with treated adult coeliac disease. Recognised risk factors for osteoporosis in the general population including low body mass index, dietary calcium intake, and early menopause are particularly important in coeliac disease. Treatment of coeliac disease with a gluten free diet probably protects against further bone loss, and in the early stages is associated with a gain in bone mineral density.