Attention deficits have joined a growing list of neurological problems associated with the intestinal disorder known as celiac disease.
Caused by a genetic trait that leads to improper digestion of cereal proteins such as gluten, the disease has long been recognized as a source of diarrhea, abdominal pain, and poor absorption of nutrients. Recently, researchers linked the disorder to additional symptoms, including epilepsy, migraines, and reduced muscle control.
Nathanel Zelnik and his colleagues at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel, examined 111 children who had been treated for the disease between 1977 and 2001. For comparison, the researchers also studied 211 healthy children.
In the June Pediatrics, Zelnik’s team identified neurological problems in 51 percent of the children with celiac disease and in only 20 percent of those without the disorder. The team also reports a new link between the disease and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
Since some people with celiac disease develop only neurological symptoms, recognizing all signs of the illness could help doctors identify more cases for treatment—a gluten-free diet.