Common Ingredient Linked to Mental Illness
A recent study in the journal Biological Psychiatry found that gluten sensitivity may be linked to schizophrenia and psychosis. Scientists at the Department of Pediatrics, John Hopkins School of Medicine studied 471 people including: 129 with recently-developed psychosis and 191 with mild schizophrenia, and 151 people with neither condition to act as controls for the experiment.
Gluten is a set of specific proteins found in some grains like wheat, oats, barley, spelt, kamut, rye, and others, as well as baked goods, cereals, seasonings, and other foods made from them.
The scientists measured levels of various types of antibodies to determine whether people with either schizophrenia or psychosis had any greater sensitivity to gluten than people without mental illness. Fewer than 1 percent of those with mental illness showed signs of celiac disease—a disease characterized by the inability to digest gluten and many resulting disabling symptoms. However, a significant number of people with schizophrenia and psychosis had high levels of antibodies to gluten.
The sufferers of mental illness showed many of the same features of celiac disease but a different immune response was involved. Those with mental illness also differed substantially in their reactions to gluten than did the control group without mental illness. This study suggests that an abnormal immune response to gluten may be involved with these two forms of mental illness. Of course, further research is needed but this study gives people an important dietary factor to consider when dealing with mental illness.
Michelle Schoffro Cook, MSc, PhD, RNCP, ROHP