BMC Psychiatry 2005, 5:14

Celiac.com 05/09/2005 – Past studies have linked depression and behavioral disorders in teenagers with untreated celiac disease. Researchers in Finland conducted a study that was designed to determine what effect a gluten-free diet has on the psychiatric symptoms of adolescents with celiac disease, and specifically on the hormone prolactin (thyroid function) and on large neutral amino acid serum concentrations. Nine 12 to 16 –year-old adolescents with celiac disease were evaluated using the semi-structured K-SADS-Present and Lifetime Diagnostic interview, and seven were followed up after 1-2, 3 and 6 months on a gluten-free diet.

The researchers found that pre-gluten-free diet adolescents with celiac disease and depression had significantly lower tryptophan competing amino-acid ratios and free tryptophan concentrations, and had significantly higher biopsy morning prolactin levels compared to those without depression. After three months on a gluten-free diet the researchers noted a significant decrease in the patients psychiatric symptoms that coincided with a decrease in celiac disease symptoms and prolactin levels, and a sharp increase in serum concentrations of tryptophan competing amino-acid ratios.

The researchers conclude that their findings support the idea that untreated celiac disease in adolescents can create serotonergic dysfunction due to the impaired availability of tryptophan, and this may play a role in depressive and behavioral disorders.

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