Gluten-free diet may improve obstructive sleep apnea-related symptoms in children with celiac disease

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Background: Enlarged tonsils and adenoids are the major etiology of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in children. Lymphatic hyperplasia is common to both OSA and celiac disease. We aimed to investigate the effect of a gluten-free diet on OSA symptoms in children with celiac disease. Methods: Children with celiac disease aged 2-18 years were prospectively recruited before the initiation of a gluten-free diet. Children with negative celiac serology who underwent gastrointestinal endoscopies for other indications served as controls. All participants completed a validated OSA-related symptoms questionnaire and the pediatric sleep questionnaire (PSQ) at baseline and 6 months later. Results: Thirty-four children with celiac disease (mean age 6.6 ± 3.5 years) and 24 controls (mean age 7.3 ± 4.6 years, P = 0.5) were recruited. There were no significant differences in gender, body mass index or season at recruitment between the two groups. The rate of positive PSQ scores was higher (more OSA-related symptoms) in the control group compared to the celiac group, both at recruitment and at the 6-month follow-up (33.3% vs. 11.8%, P = 0.046, and 16.7% vs. 0, P = 0.014, respectively). PSQ scores improved significantly in both groups at the 6-month follow-up (P < 0.001 for both). Improvement was significantly higher in the celiac group compared to controls (0.1 ± 0.09 vs.0.06 ± 0.06, respectively, P = 0.04). Conclusions: Children with celiac disease had fewer OSA-related symptoms than controls, but the degree of improvement following the initiation of a gluten-free diet was significantly higher. These findings suggest that a gluten-free diet may improve OSA-related symptoms in children with celiac disease.




Yerushalmy-Feler, A., Tauman, R., Derowe, A., Averbuch, E., Ben-Tov, A., Weintraub, Y., … Cohen, S. (2018). Gluten-free diet may improve obstructive sleep apnea-related symptoms in children with celiac disease. BMC Pediatrics, 18(1).

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