Italian researchers have concluded that as many as 73% of patients with untreated celiac disease have at least one brain region that is hypoperfused (the blood vessels are damaged), although the condition is rare in the non-celiac and treated celiac disease populations. Dr. Giovanni Addolorato, from the Catholic University in Rome, and colleagues looked at 15 untreated and 15 treated (on gluten-free diets) celiac disease patients and compared them with 27 healthy controls. They found that 11 (73%) of the untreated celiac disease patients exhibited hypoperfusion in at least one cerebral region, when only one treated patient and no controls had the problem. Additionally they found that in 7 of the 26 brain regions that they looked at, blood flow was significantly lower in untreated patients than in controls, and no blood flow differences were detected between the treated group and the control group.
According to the researchers the cause of the vascular brain damage in celiac disease is unclear at this point, but it may be related to the increased intestinal blood flow, and/or endothelial inflammation caused by the autoimmune disease, perhaps involving antigliadin antibodies or unidentified neurotoxic antibodies.