The neurology of coeliac disease in childhood: what is the evidence? A systematic review and meta-analysis

Dev Med Child Neurol. 2010 Aug;52(8):700-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8749.2010.03647.x. Epub 2010 Mar 19.


Aim: The aim of this article was to review and conduct a meta-analysis of the paediatric literature on the neurology of coeliac disease.

Method: We conducted a review of paediatric studies published in English assessing neurological illness in coeliac disease identified through a MEDLINE search (1950-2009). Calculation of computed relative risk, odds ratio, and risk difference was performed using the fixed effect method if applicable.

Results: Fifteen studies were analysed (11 772 participants). The meta-analysis showed that (1) the relative risk of epilepsy in individuals with coeliac disease, and of coeliac disease in individuals with epilepsy, compared with the general population, was 2.1 and 1.7, respectively, and the risk difference was close to zero, indicating that it was probably a chance association; and (2) the relative risk of headache in individuals with the disease compared with comparison groups was 3.2. In two studies, cerebellar ataxia was documented in 2.7 to 5.4% of participants; in two further studies, the risk of cerebellar dysfunction was zero. Two studies found an association between coeliac disease and peripheral neuropathy. Brain white matter lesions were recorded in two other studies. An association between autism and coeliac disease is disputed. Interpretation Children with coeliac disease are at risk of developing neurological complications, but the risk is lower than in adulthood. The discrepancy might be due to short disease duration, early elimination of gluten from the diet, stricter adherence to diet, or different susceptibility to immune-mediated disorders.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Autistic Disorder / epidemiology
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Brain Diseases / epidemiology
  • Celiac Disease* / diet therapy
  • Celiac Disease* / epidemiology
  • Celiac Disease* / metabolism
  • Cerebellar Ataxia / epidemiology
  • Cerebellar Ataxia / metabolism
  • Cerebellar Ataxia / physiopathology
  • Child
  • Comorbidity
  • Epilepsy / epidemiology
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology
  • Glutens / metabolism
  • Headache / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Patient Compliance
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / epidemiology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology
  • Prevalence
  • Vitamin B 12 Deficiency / epidemiology
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / epidemiology


  • Glutens