Food and Behaviour Research

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28 June 2019 - Questioning Answers - Roger Moore's eyebrows, ADHD and coeliac disease part 2

Paul Whiteley

ADHD

Behaviourally defined diagnostic labels such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) seem to rarely exist in some sort of clinical vacuum. Part of that vacuum also potentially encompasses a range of somatic symptoms and/or diagnostic labels.

Consider this post an extension of some previous blogging chatter (see here) about how behaviourally defined diagnostic labels such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) seem to rarely exist in some sort of clinical vacuum. Part of that vacuum also potentially encompasses a range of somatic symptoms and/or diagnostic labels.
 
The findings reported by Vendel Kristensen and colleagues set out to "assess self-reported symptoms of impaired concentration in coeliac disease before and after treatment with gluten-free diet, compared with healthy controls and patient controls." Coeliac (celiac) disease, in case you didn't know, refers to the archetypal 'gluten can affect biology' condition, where a certain genetic predisposition (or two) adds to gluten exposure to start a whole cascade of biological actions that impact on physical health and well being. Alongside things like bowel symptoms, there is an increasing recognition that coeliac disease (CD) also potentially brings with it certain psychological symptoms, particularly when it is not properly treated/managed (see here).
 
Kristensen et al asked some 30 people - "newly diagnosed coeliac patients" - to complete various questionnaires pertinent to the presentation of ADHD type symptoms, depression and anxiety and gut issues. These were compared with responses from those diagnosed with an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and controls (healthcare professionals).

They reported that those diagnosed with CD before implementation of a gluten-free diet had "significantly higher scores than healthy controls" in relation to the presence of self-reported ADHD and depression/anxiety symptoms. Further: "After a gluten-free diet, their scores improved and were not significantly different from healthy controls." That gluten-free diet by the way, was in place for a minimum of 12 months.
 
One has to be careful not to make too many sweeping generalisations from the Kristensen data. The data do not, for example, mean that all cases of ADHD are somehow the product of undiagnosed coeliac disease. Not even close. What do they do (cautiously) suggest, is that preferential screening for something like coeliac disease *might* be a good idea as and when ADHD is diagnosed or significant ADHD-like symptoms present. Such findings also resonate with the idea that certain dietary interventions to manage *some* ADHD could be a research area to consider (see here) and bring into play an interesting concept: the gut-brain axis.

Oh, and in case you were wondering about the 'Roger Moore's eyebrows' bit, well, he was the best James Bond wasn't he?