Celiac Disease :: Celiac disease linked to impaired thinking

Impaired thinking may follow the onset or worsening of celiac disease, a common digestive disorder triggered by eating wheat products and other foods containing the protein gluten, as reported in the Archives of Neurology by Dr. Keith A. Josephs and colleagues from the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, who studied 13 patients who experienced cognitive decline within 2 years of the onset or worsening of celiac disease.

The average age at onset of impaired thinking was 64 years. This coincided with symptom onset or a worsening of digestive complaints in five subjects. The most common impairments were amnesia, an inability to do simple math, confusion and personality changes.

“Surprisingly, three patients were initially diagnosed as having possible Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease,” the team notes, “because of a rapidly progressive course.” Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is a fatal neurologic disease, similar to mad cow disease, which eventually destroys the brain.

Nine patients completed mental status tests and achieved an average score that indicated impaired thinking ability.

Removal of gluten-containing foods from the diet improved thinking ability in some of the patients, the report indicates.

Further studies are needed to uncover the underlying reasons for the association between celiac disease and impaired thinking ability, Josephs and colleagues conclude.

SOURCE: Archives of Neurology, October 2006.

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