ADHD and Celiac Disease (The Gluten Connection)

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. 2011; 13(3): PCC.10br01104.
PMCID: PMC3184556

Association of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Celiac Disease: A Brief Report

Abstract

Objective:

A possible association of celiac disease with psychiatric and psychological disturbances such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been reported repeatedly. The objective of this study was to observe whether a gluten-free diet could alleviate the behavioral symptoms in patients with celiac disease and ADHD.

Method:

Sixty-seven subjects aged 7 to 42 years (mean = 11.4 years) with ADHD were enrolled in the study in South Tyrol, Italy, from 2004 to 2008. Hypescheme, an operational criteria checklist that incorporates DSM-IV and ICD-10 criteria, was used to assess ADHD-like symptomatology. Additionally, blood serum levels of all subjects were assessed for possible celiac disease by examining antigliadine and antiendomysium antibodies. A gluten-free diet was initiated for at least 6 months in celiac disease–positive patients with ADHD.

Results:

Of the 67 patients with ADHD, 10 were positive for celiac disease. After initiation of the gluten-free diet, patients or their parents reported a significant improvement in their behavior and functioning compared to the period before celiac diagnosis and treatment, which was evident in the overall mean score on the Hypescheme questionnaire (t = 4.22, P = .023).

Conclusions:

Celiac disease is markedly overrepresented among patients presenting with ADHD. A gluten-free diet significantly improved ADHD symptoms in patients with celiac disease in this study. The results further suggest that celiac disease should be included in the ADHD symptom checklist.

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