Article: Celiac Disease Linked to Dementia


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Celiac Disease Linked to Dementia

Gluten-Free Diet May Reverse Mental Decline in Patients By Salynn Boyles
WebMD Medical News Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD
on Friday, October 13, 2006
Oct. 13, 2006 -- Adults who develop the digestive condition known as celiac disease appear to be at increased risk for dementia, according to new research from the Mayo Clinic.

Celiac disease is a disorder caused by an immune reaction to eating gluten, found in some grains such as wheat, barely, and rye. Damage occurs to the inner lining of the small intestine. Classic symptoms include chronic diarrheadiarrhea, weight lossweight loss, cramping, bloating, and gas.

About 10% of celiac patients have some neurologic symptoms, such as numbness and pain. But a link to dementia and other forms of mental decline has not been widely reported.

Mayo Clinic neurologist Keith A. Josephs, MD, MST, tells WebMD that he first made the connection when examining a patient suspected of having the fatal brain disorder Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD).

The patient did not have CJD, but he did have celiac disease. He also had rapid-onset dementia, which coincided with the onset of diarrhea and other well-recognized symptoms of the digestive disease.

"I wanted to find out if the dementia was related to the celiac disease," Josephs says.

Gluten-Free Diet Reversed Dementia

Josephs and colleagues including William T. Hu, MD, PhD, examined the medical histories of 13 patients who showed evidence of serious mental declines within two years of developing symptoms of celiac disease.

The patients were between the ages of 45 and 79, and their average age was 64.

In five cases, celiac symptoms and mental decline occurred simultaneously. Two of the patients also recovered mental function when they followed gluten-free diets, and mental function stabilized in one patient.

Avoiding wheat and other gluten-containing grains is the main treatment for celiac disease.

"This is a big deal," Josephs says. "It is almost unheard of to see a reversal in dementia or cognitive decline."

The next step, he says, is to try and figure out the connection between celiac disease and mental deterioration. One theory is that the immune response to celiac disease attacks the brain. Another is that the disease causes inflammation within the brain, which triggers dementia.

Mayo clinic gastroenterologist and celiac disease expert Joseph Murray, MD, says he was surprised that the link was so strong.

"I was not expecting that there would be so many celiac disease patients with cognitive decline," he said.

Celiac Often Misdiagnosed

Celiac disease is common, occurring in about one in 133 people, Murray says. But it is often misdiagnosed or missed altogether due to the vague nature of the symptoms.

The new findings give doctors an added reason to identify patients with celiac disease and to treat patients who have been diagnosed, the researchers conclude.

That means ruling out celiac disease in patients who have atypical forms of dementia and being watchful for mental decline in celiac patients.


SOURCES: Hu, W.T. Archives of Neurology, October 2006; vol 63, online edition. Keith A. Josephs, MD, MST, neurologist, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Joseph A. Murray, MD, gastroenterologist, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.
They are doing more research on nutrition and dementia. It is another way of showing how the body works as a whole, and everything affects its parts.

Nutrition role in preventing dementia

8/10/2005- A review of studies investigating possible causes of cognitive decline and dementia in later life has drawn attention to a lack of vitamin B12 and other nutritional factors that may increase the risk.

In a paper published in the inaugural issue of Aging Health, Ross Andel and Tiffany Hughes of the University of Florida’s School of Aging Studies noticed strong evidence for a connection between low levels of folic acid and vitamin B12, and high and low levels of high density lipoproteins.
This week, Harvard Medical School warned in its Health Letter that vitamin B12 deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the Western world.

In the diet, B12 is present in meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products – which means that vegetarians are particularly vulnerable.

Adults over 50 are also more likely to be lacking than most, as a third of people in this age-group suffer from atrophic gastritis whereby the stomach lining thins and the amount of B12 absorbed by the small intestine is reduced.

In both of these groups, B12 levels can be boosted by supplementation.

On certain other dietary factors, the researchers’ observations may suggest that steering a middle course is the best strategy: high and low calorific intake were seen to be risk factors, as were high and low blood sugar, antioxidant levels (in particular vitamin E), and alcohol consumption.

Andel said that finding ways to stave off cognitive decline is an important area of research.

“Cognitive decline and dementia are among the most feared age-related problems. Because of the aging baby boom population, prevention issues have taken the spotlight.”

Prevention could have a profound impact on the future of nursing homes, health care costs and the burden placed on caregivers.

Beyond nutrition, the review also looked at early life factors, such as fewer siblings, higher level of education, and higher socioeconomic status of parents, all of which were associated with a lower risk and seemed to point towards the establishment of a “cognitive reserve”.

In later life, intellectual stimulation at work and at leisure was seen to reduce risk, while lifestyle and life-course like poor fitness, vascular disease, diabetes and stress increased it.

The authors concluded that the way is open for further research on the subject, which should help pinpoint specific strategies to maintain cognitive abilities.

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New Member
Wow, if it had not been so many years since I was diagnosed with Celiac I would be scared to read this. However, I was finally diagnosed with Celiac in 1995 after having all of the symptoms listed associated with Celiac. The internist finally did a stomach biopsy and determined I had no villi and was therefore receiving no nutrients at all. However he asked me if I wasn't tired or feeling badly. I told him other than spending more time in the bathroom than I would like which meant waking up many times a night, that I wasn't feeling any tireder than any mother of a child under the age of one is. When my daughter was still less than a year old, my internist did a routine blood test and it was determined that I had no clotting factor at all, my liver wasn't working, but several K shots got me back in great shape. Again, the doctor covering for my regular doctor that called me in once he got the results of the bloodwork, asked me how I was feeling. I felt great. He did tell me my regular internist saved my life by ordering routine blood work, as without it I would have likely died of a massive brain hemmorage by was Wednesday. I did follow the Celiac diet and in three months my internist did another biopsy and reported my villi was growing back. He monitored me for a couple of years, but then released me from care. He had told me that when he diagnosed my Celiac he had only seen two other cases in his 30 years of being a doctor, and only one other as bad as me, and that was an elderly man on IV and bed ridden because he just didn't have the strength to function. I felt fine.

I have not always followed the Celiac diet over the years, but I have not had a return of the problems I had before. Perhaps I will, after all I was told you are born with Celiac and sometimes it remains latent, and can do so your entire life. However, the hormone changes from having my daughter at almost 41 years old, caused mine to flare up.

I will tell you that from August 1997 to June 2000 I attended college and over the course of those three years, I earned two Associates in Computer Science and one in Accounting...a double major, therefore completed simultaneously, and graduated with a 3.51 average for both. Graduated with honors. In August 2002 to May 2006 I completed a bachelors degree in Psychology and graduated with a 4.0...Summa :censored2: Laude.

Hopefully dementia isn't in my immediate future, but it didn't happen at the time I was having my symptoms before or right after diagnosed with Celiac. It has been over 11 years since I was diagnosed and I still don't have the signs of dementia...well, depending on who you are asking. /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/1010witch.gif



Active Member
I had a friend who was having some neurological issues and since there was a family history of celiac we dug in and did some research. We found several studies coming out of Europe some years ago already that confirmed a connection between celiac and neurological problems--not just the digestive problems what are most commonly recognized. We only found one small study suggestive of that connection from the US.

Always good to see significant progress. We just went through a rapid onset dementia situation with a family member and it did turn out to be CJD. The doctors were in such a muddle trying to find out what it was (until they took her to Mayo which diagnosed it right off) that I'm sure diet didn't even cross their minds.


Active Member
No one in my family, except my grandmother, is officially diagnosis'ed with celiac disease but my 2 daughters and I have been following the celiac diet since last spring. One daughter had tummy aches but she wasn't as sick as you typically read about for celiac. My other daughter and I had no gastrointestinal issues before we started this diet. Now we do when we accidently have gluten.

All of us do experience neurological symptoms when we have gluten. I feel like I am in a fog. It takes me a minute to process what someone has said if I even notice them talking to me. I become unmotivated. I thought this was just the way I was until I went on this diet. The last time I accidently ate something at a restaurant, I couldn't even figure out my part of the bill. I used to be a CPA so this should be easy for me. Actually, I would figure it out but by the time I got my money out, I had forgotten it. Over and over, this happened. Then later, I realized I had figured out and left the wrong amount.:eek: One daughter complains of being "confused". Both daughters can't do their homework after eating something with gluten. (They are straight A students.)

I know this study just came out, but it is just official confirmation of what many of us celiacs experience.