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  • Jefferson Adams

    Gluten-sensitivity in Autism Different than Celiac Disease

    Jefferson Adams
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    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Photo: CC--Bryce Edwards
    Caption: Photo: CC--Bryce Edwards

    Celiac.com 07/24/2013 - Gastrointestinal symptoms are a common feature in children with autism, drawing attention to a potential association with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

    Photo: CC--Bryce EdwardsSo far, studies of the immune response to gluten in autistic individuals, along with its association with celiac disease have produced inconsistent data.



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    A team of researchers recently set out to assess immune reactivity to gluten in children diagnosed with autism according to strict criteria, and to evaluate the potential link between autism and celiac disease.

    The research team included Nga M. Lau, Peter H. R. Green, Annette K. Taylor, Dan Hellberg, Mary Ajamian, Caroline Z. Tan, Barry E. Kosofsky, Joseph J. Higgins, Anjali M. Rajadhyaksha, and Armin Alaedini.

    For their study, the team assessed 37 children (with or without gastrointestinal symptoms) diagnosed with autism according to both the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) and the Autism Diagnostic Interview, Revised (ADI-R), 27 unaffected siblings, and 76 age-matched healthy controls.

    They then tested blood specimens for antibodies to native gliadin, deamidated gliadin, and transglutaminase 2 (TG2). They then genotyped all children with positive antibody tests for celiac disease associated HLA-DQ2 and -DQ8 alleles.

    The team found that children with autism had substantially higher levels of IgG antibodies compared with unrelated healthy controls (p<0.01). The IgG levels were also higher compared to the unaffected siblings, but were not statistically significant. Autistic children with gastrointestinal symptoms showed significantly greater IgG anti-gliadin antibody response, compared to those without them (p<0.01). All groups showed similar IgA response to gliadin across groups.

    Both study subjects and control subjects ahd similar levels of celiac disease-specific serologic markers, i.e., antibodies to deamidated gliadin and TG2. The researchers found no association between increased anti-gliadin antibody and presence of HLA-DQ2 and/or -DQ8.

    Some children with autism do show a type of increased immune reactivity to gluten which appears to be different from celiac disease.

    The increased anti-gliadin antibody response and its association with GI symptoms suggests that these children may suffer from immunologic and/or intestinal permeability abnormalities.

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    Guest Lucille Cholerton

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    It is heartening to know that research like this is occurring. I believe that autism is also about peptides released from gluten and casein. These can be measured in urine samples.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,500 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.


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