Objectives: Celiac disease (CD), a genetically predisposed intolerance for gluten, is associated with an increased risk of major depressive disorder (MDD). We investigated whether dietary intake and serum levels of the essential n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA) found in fatty fish play a role in this association.
Methods: Cross-sectional study in 71 adult CD patients and 31 healthy volunteers, matched on age, gender and level of education, who were not using n-3 PUFA supplements. Dietary intake, as assessed using a 203-item food frequency questionnaire, and serum levels of EPA and DHA were compared in analyses of covariance, adjusting for potential confounders. Serum PUFA were determined using gas chromatography.
Results: Mean serum DHA was significantly higher in CD patients (1.72 mass%) than controls (1.28 mass%) after multivariable adjustment (mean diff. 0.45 mass%; 95% CI: 0.22-0.68; p = 0.001). The mean intake of EPA plus DHA did not differ between CD patients and controls after multivariable adjustment (0.15 and 0.22 g/d, respectively; p = 0.10). There were no significant differences in intake or serum levels of EPA and DHA between any of the CD patient groups (never depressed, current MDD, minor/partially remitted MDD, remitted MDD) and controls.
Conclusions: Patients on a long term gluten-free diet had similar intakes of EPA plus DHA compared to controls. Contrary to expectations, DHA serum levels were significantly higher in CD patients compared to healthy controls and were unrelated to MDD status.