Thursday, July 09, 2009

Study: Celiac Disease and Autism

The Focus Might Surprise You

A bunch of studies related to autism, gluten, and/or celiac disease seem to be in the works, but so far it appears that not many have made it very far into the public eye.

Now the July 6 online edition of Pediatrics includes an international study that links autism with celiac disease, but perhaps not in a way that many people might have anticipated.

The study found, in part, that the children of mothers with celiac disease were more than three times more at risk for autism, reports HealthDay reporter Steven Reinberg,

So what does this mean in terms of treating autism with a gluten-free diet? The basic GFNYC stance remains the same: Before putting a child on a gluten-free diet, simply have the child tested for celiac disease by an informed pediatrician who understands that, depending on the age of the child, the serum test criteria for child diagnosis may be slightly different than those for adult diagnosis. (For infants and anyone else with neurological disorders, the anti-tissue antibodies may not be as important as the anti-gliadin antibodies.) Should the results be positive and the child go on a gluten-free diet, much improvement might result—and compliance with the diet can be monitored with using the original blood tests as a baseline.

To complement this testing, mothers (and fathers) might want to have themselves tested too.

The estimated prevalance of celiac disease in the general population is about 1:133—and possibly increasing, although most people remain undiagnosed. (Autism is slightly rarer in the United States, at about 1:150.) Among children with celiac-related developmental problems including failure to thrive, short stature, and dental enamel and tooth growth issues, it might be safe to say that they may be even more likely candidatest to be tested for celiac disease.

Certainly first- and second-degree relatives of people with celiac disease are much more likely to have the condition themselves. (The odds are about 1:22 and 1:39, respectively.)

More data can be expected over the coming months. But for now, if you're ready to put a child on a gluten-free diet, seize the opportunity to test for celiac disease first. Once a patient is gluten-free, testing for celiac disease and monitoring for dietary compliance becomes more difficult.

And, if your child has been diagnosed with autism, consider getting tested for celiac disease yourself. It could help to clarify some significant family health issues.


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