A recent Swedish study finds no link between celiac disease and autism spectrum disorders.
The study’s lead, Dr. Jonas Ludvigsson of Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, says that this is one less thing for people who have celiac disease or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to worry about.
According to Ludvigsson, people who were diagnosed with an ASD in the study were no more likely to be diagnosed with celiac disease than people without an ASD.
Ludvigsson and his colleagues linked several Swedish databases to compare the celiac disease diagnoses among people with ASDs to a group of people without the developmental disorders. The researchers had data from 250,000 people.
Roughly 44 people per 100,000 were diagnosed with an ASD before they were diagnosed with celiac disease. That compared to about 48 people per 100,000 who were diagnosed with an ASD but not with celiac disease.
The study did find, however, a link between ASDs and a positive blood test for celiac disease, which alone is not enough to diagnose someone with the condition. A celiac disease diagnosis requires both a positive blood test and evidence of damage to the small intestine.
Ludvigsson cautioned that the link between ASDs and a positive celiac blood test is based on a small number of cases. There could be a real relationship between the two or it could be a result of doctors overtesting people with ASDs, he said.
The study also does not shed any light on whether a gluten-free diet improves ASD symptoms. The study is published in JAMA Psychiatry.