Gluten May Be Causing Celiac ‘Brain Fog’

June 23, 2014

A yearlong study on celiacs finds gluten may be responsible for cognitive problems in this population group.

It’s a small study, but a yearlong experiment on just 11 adults with celiac disease suggests that adherence to a gluten-free diet can improve their cognition to the effect of reducing brain fog.

Aussie researchers say that celiacs often report brain fog when they aren’t eating gluten-free. The term characterizes an assortment of potential brain problems, such as lack of attentiveness and temporary loss of memory or creativity. “In our experience, patients often report that brain fog dissipates after treatment on a gluten-free diet or returns after inadvertent gluten exposure,” wrote the researchers.

Interestingly enough, when researchers assigned these celiac volunteers who were not previous following a strict gluten-free diet to just that, physiological improvements were evident.

After 52 weeks of purely gluten-free eating, subjects showed significantly improved Marsh scores-an indicator of better intestinal health. After 12 weeks, scores on cognitive tests significantly improved. This second result suggests that untreated celiac disease may come with cognitive challenges, which is line with previous studies that have drawn connections between late diagnosis of celiac disease and cognitive decline in the elderly. Celiacs may be at risk of cognitive issues because of missed nutrients such as iron and folate; greater levels of circulating cytokines in the blood as a result of chronic inflammation; or even a brain response to unbalanced gut microbiota as a result of gluten exposure.

The yearlong study on celiacs was funded by Celiac Australia.

 

Robby Gardner

Associate Editor

Nutritional Outlook magazine

robby.gardner@ubm.com