3 years ago

Hypervigilance to a Gluten-Free Diet and Decreased Quality of Life in Teenagers and Adults with Celiac Disease

Anne R. Lee, Peter H. R. Green, Benjamin Lebwohl, Jennifer Cadenhead, Norelle R. Reilly, Randi L. Wolf, Chelsea Amengual, Patricia Zybert


Background and Aims

Avoidance of gluten is critical for individuals with celiac disease (CD), but there is also concern that “extreme vigilance” to a strict gluten-free diet may increase symptoms such as anxiety and fatigue, and therefore, lower quality of life (QOL). We examined the associations of QOL with energy levels and adherence to, and knowledge about, a gluten-free diet.


This is a cross-sectional prospective study of 80 teenagers and adults, all with biopsy-confirmed CD, living in a major metropolitan area. QOL was assessed with CD-specific measures. Dietary vigilance was based on 24-h recalls and an interview. Knowledge was based on a food label quiz. Open-ended questions described facilitators and barriers to maintaining a gluten-free diet.


The extremely vigilant adults in our sample had significantly lower QOL scores than their less vigilant counterparts [(mean (SD): 64.2 (16.0) vs 77.2 (12.2), p = 0.004]. Extreme vigilance was also associated with greater knowledge [5.7 (0.7) vs 5.1 (0.8), p = 0.035]. Adults with lower energy levels had significantly lower overall QOL scores than adults with higher energy levels [68.0 (13.6) vs 78.9 (13.0), p = 0.006]. Patterns were similar for teenagers. Cooking at home and using internet sites and apps were prevalent strategies used by the hypervigilant to maintain a strict gluten-free diet. Eating out was particularly problematic.


There are potential negative consequences of hypervigilance to a strict gluten-free diet. Clinicians must consider the importance of concurrently promoting both dietary adherence and social and emotional well-being for individuals with CD.

Publisher URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10620-018-4936-4

DOI: 10.1007/s10620-018-4936-4

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