A large-scale study in May 2017 Pediatrics suggests patients diagnosed with celiac disease, an inflammatory digestive disorder triggered by gluten, before age 19 were 4.5 times more likely to have previously been diagnosed with anorexia nervosa.
The study (published online April 3) looked at 17,959 women whose celiac disease was confirmed with biopsies in Sweden between 1969 and 2008.
Researchers also found that adults previously diagnosed with celiac disease had double the rate of subsequently developing anorexia nervosa, a disorder in which patients severely limit the amount of food they eat. The researchers said several factors may contribute the apparent bidirectional association between the two disorders. One is that patients with celiac disease might have been inaccurately diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, or vice versa, because chronic gastrointestinal problems and disordered eating patterns may be closely tied.
They said the positive association between the two diseases should spur a careful initial assessment and follow-up of patients with these illnesses.
Editor's Note: A solicited commentary, "Celiac Disease and Anorexia Nervosa—An Association Well Worth Considering," accompanies this study.