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Is There a Link Between Gluten and Dementia?

While it’s far from definitive, researchers from the Mayo Clinic have found a link between celiac disease, a digestive condition triggered by gluten, and dementia and other types of cognitive decline. This study, published in 2006, is one of the largest case series to document cognitive decline within 2 years of the onset of celiac disease. About 10 percent of people with celiac disease have some level of neurological symptoms, but this is the first time the link to dementia was established.

In the study, three celiac disease patients developed cognitive decline that actually reversed or stabilized after removing gluten from their diet. This is significant because cognitive decline usually worsens, and it helps the argument that celiac disease is related to cognitive decline in some people.

Researchers aren’t sure why people with celiac disease are at a higher risk of cognitive decline, although there are a few theories including inflammatory cytokines (inflammation of chemical messengers that cause problems in the brain), nutritional deficiency in celiac disease patients, and an immune attack on the brain.

Orlando senior care professionals stress that to date there’s no evidence to suggest people without celiac disease may be at a higher risk of dementia with a high-gluten diet, although at least one doctor thinks it makes sense to avoid glutens. According to neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter, carbohydrates elevate blood glucose, which can increase the risk of degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Perlmutter says that for the vast majority of our history, our bodies have adapted to a diet with very little grains and glutens and our genome isn’t prepared to handle a high-carb, low-fat diet.

While the link between celiac disease and dementia is established, it doesn’t mean your senior loved one needs to ditch gluten for good. What is important is avoiding gluten if he or she has been diagnosed with celiac disease. Seniors who have rapid onset dementia or an atypical form of dementia should also be screened for celiac disease.

One of the best ways to prevent disease is to eat a healthy and well-balanced diet. If your senior loved one struggles with grocery shopping, cooking, and clean up, he or she may not be getting adequate nutrients or following a diet right for his or her needs. To help your senior loved one stay healthy and happy, consider hourly care in Orlando from Home Care Assistance. Our caregivers can run errands, cooking, clean, assist with personal grooming and physical activity, and provide emotional support and companionship. For more information, call a friendly Care Manager at (407) 232-7155 and request a complimentary in-home consultation.