A new study indicates that a gluten-free diet may ease symptoms of schizophrenia. This is seemingly an unbelievable connection between diet and mental health. It is something I have actually head of this before from a psychiatrist who treats her patients without prescription medication but with therapy, nutrition, and exercise. She has reported on some amazing results, including when she gets patients off of eating wheat. This study was presented at the 2019 Congress of the Schizophrenia International Research Society on April 11-14.
In this study the authors examined only a total of 16 people. They placed 7 in the treatment group and 9 in a control group. The treatment group had a gluten-free diet and the control had an unrestricted diet. Both groups where on the same medication for schizophrenia prior to the study. The gluten-free group was found to have a decrease in the Scale for the Assessment of Negative Symptoms including; anhedonia, avolition, blunting, and alogia. Only one of the nine patients who were on the gluten-containing diet experienced at least a 30% decrease in the SANS total score, compared with four of the seven patients on the gluten-free diet. These results where impressive, enough, for the authors to be excited that a non-drug “treatment” could impact schizophrenia so much. They are presently recruiting a larger group of patients for a bigger study to confirm their findings.
A key component to this study is that, this is not for all people who suffer from schizophrenia. The authors note that in about 30% of all patients with schizophrenia there is elevated levels of serum antibodies to gluten, specifically antigliadin antibodies (AGA.) The antigliadin antibody is not related to the antibodies seen in celiac disease, which affects roughly 1% of the overall population. At the end of the 5 week study, AGA IgG levels had decreased by 34% in the gluten-free group vs 16% in those who consumed a diet containing gluten. Patients in the gluten-free group reported less abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, reflux, and indigestion, as noted on the Gastrointestinal Symptom Rating Scale.
This study is promising for what it could mean in the treatment of people with schizophrenia. In the AGA levels, these authors found a measure to determine who might benefit the most from a gluten-free diet and also are in the process of confirming that diet could ease their symptoms. Wouldn’t it be great if something as small as eliminating wheat from the diet could improve mental health?