ADHD News & Research

Research: Celiac Disease May Be Linked to ADHD

Celiac disease may be connected to ADHD, according to studies analyzed as part of a systematic review on the conditions. Additional research is needed to understand the connection between celiac disease, ADHD, and other related conditions.

August 8, 2022

Celiac disease ⁠— an autoimmune disorder that causes intolerance to gluten ⁠— may be linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a systematic review recently published in Children.1

The review, which comprises 23 studies that reference ADHD and celiac disease published in the last two decades, found that more than half of those studies established a positive association between the conditions. Most of the studies that show a positive association were published in the last five years.

A 2021 study of 112,340 participants, for example, found that patients with celiac disease faced an increased risk for ADHD (OR: 1.75) compared to patients without celiac disease.2 A small study published the year prior of 73 pediatric patients with celiac disease found that 16% of the group also had ADHD, higher than the 9.4% prevalence of ADHD found in the general population.3 4

The review included a few small studies on the association between gluten-free foods, celiac disease, and ADHD. In one study, 15% of participants with ADHD who tested positive for celiac disease and subsequently avoided gluten for six months saw a reduction in ADHD symptoms.5

The review builds on emerging research linking celiac disease to other conditions, including autism, anxiety, and mood disorders.6 A 2017 study (included in the systematic review) found that children with celiac disease had a 1.4-fold increased risk for psychiatric disorders later in life.7

The author of the review cautions that the referenced studies on celiac disease and ADHD differ considerably in methodology, diagnostic criteria, study design, number of participants, and other parameters that may impact reporting. More research is needed to understand celiac disease and its connection to ADHD.

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1 Clappison, E., Hadjivassiliou, M., & Zis, P. (2020). Psychiatric Manifestations of Coeliac Disease, a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients, 12(1), 142.

2 Butwicka, A., Lichtenstein, P., Frisén, L., Almqvist, C., Larsson, H., & Ludvigsson, J. F. (2017). Celiac Disease Is Associated with Childhood Psychiatric Disorders: A Population-Based Study. The Journal of pediatrics, 184, 87–93.e1.

3 Niederhofer H. (2011). Association of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and celiac disease: a brief report. The primary care companion for CNS disorders, 13(3), PCC.10br01104.

4 Danielson, M. L., Bitsko, R. H., Ghandour, R. M., Holbrook, J. R., Kogan, M. D., & Blumberg, S. J. (2018). Prevalence of Parent-Reported ADHD Diagnosis and Associated Treatment Among U.S. Children and Adolescents, 2016. Journal of clinical child and adolescent psychology : the official journal for the Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, American Psychological Association, Division 53, 47(2), 199–212.

5 Alkhayyat, M., Qapaja, T., Aggarwal, M., Almomani, A., Abureesh, M., Al-Otoom, O., Zmaili, M., Mansoor, E., & Abou Saleh, M. (2021). Epidemiology and risk of psychiatric disorders among patients with celiac disease: A population-based national study. Journal of gastroenterology and hepatology, 36(8), 2165–2170.

6 Coburn, S., Rose, M., Sady, M., Parker, M., Suslovic, W., Weisbrod, V., Kerzner, B., Streisand, R., & Kahn, I. (2020). Mental Health Disorders and Psychosocial Distress in Pediatric Celiac Disease. Journal of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition, 70(5), 608–614.

7Gaur S. (2022). The Association between ADHD and Celiac Disease in Children. Children (Basel, Switzerland), 9(6), 781.