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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    The Connection Between Celiac Disease Autoimmunity and Psychopathology in Children

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      A team of researchers recently examined the connection between celiac disease autoimmunity and psychopathology in children.

    Caption: Image: CC0 1.0--jimbarnesIPPY

    Celiac.com 09/17/2019 - Celiac disease is associated with psychopathology in children. However, it's unknown whether this connection is present in children with celiac disease autoimmunity identified by screening.

    A team of researchers recently set out to examine the associations between sub-clinical celiac disease autoimmunity and emotional and behavioral problems in children without a previous celiac disease diagnosis.

    The research team included Rama J. Wahab, Sytske A. Beth, Ivonne P.M. Derks, Pauline W. Jansen, Henriëtte A. Moll, and Jessica C. Kiefte-de Jong.

    As part of a population-based cohort study, the team analyzed levels of tissue transglutaminase autoantibodies in 3,715 children averaging 6 years of age. After excluding children with diagnosed celiac disease or those on a gluten-free diet, the team found 51 children with celiac disease autoimmunity, defined as levels of tissue transglutaminase autoantibodies at or above 7 U/mL. 

    To assess behavioral and emotional problems of children averaging 5.9 years old, they used a Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) completed by the parents. They applied multiple linear regression models to assess the cross-sectional connections between celiac disease autoimmunity and CBCL scores. They also conducted sensitivity analyses in a subgroup of seropositive children with HLA antigen risk alleles for celiac disease.

    The data showed that celiac disease autoimmunity, especially combined with the HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8 risk alleles, is associated with anxiety problems and oppositional defiant problems. 

    The team is calling for more research to determine whether behavioral problems might be an indication of sub-clinical celiac disease.

    Read more in Pediatrics


    The researchers are variously affiliated with the Generation R Study Group; the Department of Pediatrics, Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, Netherlands; the Departments of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychology; the Psychology, Education, and Child Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam, Netherlands; and the Department of Public Health and Primary Care, Campus The Hague, Leiden University Medical Center, The Hague, Netherlands.

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    The question that is also worth evaluating is how much adhering to a gluten-free diet is causing a psychopathology in addition to studying how gluten is the culprit. There is no question that a gluten-free diet has social implications and puts a lot of stress on the children, on parents and others because a simple dinner at a restaurant or at relatives house or any friend's birthday celebration comes with a certain amount of anxiety. 

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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 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in biology, anatomy, medicine, science, and advanced research, and scientific methods. 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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