Serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor in children with coeliac disease

Eur J Clin Invest. 2018 May;48(5):e12916. doi: 10.1111/eci.12916. Epub 2018 Mar 7.


Background: Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a neurotrophin that has a protective role in the nervous system and is involved in neural plasticity. It is abundant in the central nervous system, but is also expressed in the gastrointestinal tract. Coeliac disease (CD), characterised by intestinal inflammation, has some comorbidity with neurologic and mental disorders. The aim of this study was to evaluate circulating BDNF concentrations in patients with CD at diagnosis or on a gluten-free diet (GFD) for longer than 1 year and in healthy controls (HC).

Materials and methods: Fifty newly diagnosed patients with CD (aged 8.6 ± 3.7 years, 64.0% females), thirty-nine patients on GFD for longer than 1 year (aged 10.4 ± 3.4 years, 71.8% females) and 36 HC (aged 8 ± 1.7 years, 33.3% females) were included in the study. Along with anthropometric evaluation and standard blood chemistry, serum BDNF levels were measured by a specific immunoenzymatic assay.

Results: Patients at diagnosis and on GFD had significantly higher BDNF levels (26 110 ± 8204 and 28 860 ± 7992 pg/mL), respectively, than HC (19 630 ± 8093 pg/mL, P < .001 for both CD groups). Patients on GFD had significantly higher BDNF levels than those at diagnosis (P = .02).

Conclusions: Serum BDNF concentrations were higher in patients with CD than in HC, regardless of their status of gluten consumption. This could be attributed either to a potential protective response to the inflammation of the intestine or to chronic stress.

Keywords: brain-derived neurotrophic factor; children; coeliac disease; gluten-free diet; gut inflammation; stress.

MeSH terms

  • Age of Onset
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Celiac Disease / blood*
  • Celiac Disease / diet therapy
  • Child
  • Diet, Gluten-Free
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Male
  • Medication Adherence


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • BDNF protein, human