No connection between autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and celiac disease was found in a Swedish study published September 25. This study is the largest study to investigate the relationship between autism and celiac disease. Earlier reports pointed to a possible link between ASD and celiac disease.
Researchers compared the rate of celiac disease in people with ASD to the rate of celiac disease in people who did not have ASD. No statistical relationship between the two disorders was found. Dr. Jonas Ludvigsson, who led the study, said no evidence supporting a link between autism and celiac disease or any other autoimmune disorder of the intestines was found.
The researchers did see a connection between a small number of people with autism who also had antibodies for celiac disease in their blood. These people had positive blood tests for celiac disease. A positive blood test alone is not enough information to diagnose celiac disease.
No conclusions about whether or not a gluten free diet will help the symptoms of ASD should be drawn from this study advised Ludvigsson. He also stated that there could be a relationship between ASD and other digestive disorders, but additional research is needed.
Celiac disease is a genetic disorder in which people have an abnormal reaction to gluten, according to the National Institutes for Health (NIH). It can damage the intestine and affect a person’s ability to absorb nutrients. Celiac disease is diagnosed using a blood test and intestinal biopsy.
Although not scientifically proven, parents have reported improvement of their children's autism symptoms when a gluten free casein-free diet is followed. Additional information on this diet is available from WebMD and Parents.
The study, A Nationwide Study of the Association Between Celiac Disease and the Risk of Autistic Spectrum Disorders, appears in JAMA Psychiatry.