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Gluten-Free Diet in Patients With Gluten Sensitivity and Cerebellar Ataxia

This study has been completed.
Information provided by:
National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC) Identifier:
First received: November 9, 2000
Last updated: March 3, 2008
Last verified: December 2002

This study will screen patients with cerebellar ataxia to check for antibodies that indicate allergy to gluten (wheat protein) and will study the effect of a gluten-free diet in patients with these antibodies. Patients with cerebellar ataxia have problems with coordination, resulting in "clumsiness" and unsteadiness of posture and walking.

There are many known causes of cerebellar ataxia, but in many patients the cause is unknown and there are no available treatments. Cerebellar ataxia has been recognized as a complication of celiac disease, a syndrome characterized by sensitivity to gluten. Recognizing gluten sensitivity in patients with cerebellar ataxia would be important for two reasons: it would be one of the rare causes of the disease that are potentially treatable, and it would identify patients at risk for developing gastrointestinal cancers, particularly intestinal lymphoma.

Patients with cerebellar ataxia of known or unknown cause and normal healthy volunteers of any age are eligible for this study.

All participants will have a medical history, physical examination, blood drawn (30 milliliters, or 2 tablespoons) to check for celiac disease antibodies, and possibly other lab tests. This completes the participation of normal volunteers.

All patients will have magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain. This diagnostic tool uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves instead of X-rays to show structural and chemical changes in tissues. During the scanning, the patient lies on a table in a narrow cylinder containing a magnetic field. He or she can speak with a staff member via an intercom system at all times during the procedure. Scanning times vary from 20 minutes to 2 hours.

Patients who have celiac disease antibodies will have an upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy intestinal biopsy. For this procedure, a flexible tube is inserted into the mouth and down the throat into the stomach and duodenum (the upper part of the small intestine), where a small tissue sample is taken for microscopic examination. Patients with these antibodies will be put on a gluten-free diet and will be followed at NIH every 3 months for 12 months. On the first visit, patients will have their ataxia evaluated using NINDS's ataxia scale and will meet with a dietitian for instructions for a gluten-free diet. On the second through fifth visits (after 3, 6, 9 and 12 months, respectively, on the gluten-free diet), patients will have their ataxia evaluated, speak with a dietitian to assess their nutritional status, weight, and compliance with the diet, and provide a blood sample for celiac disease antibody testing.

At the completion of the study, patients may choose to continue or stop the gluten-free diet. If the ataxia assessments show improvement, patients will be advised to continue the gluten-free diet permanently.

Celiac Disease Cerebellar Ataxia Healthy

Study Type: Observational
Official Title: Open Label Controlled Trial of Gluten-Free Diet in Patients With Gluten-Sensitivity and Cerebellar Ataxia

Resource links provided by NLM:

Further study details as provided by National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC):

Estimated Enrollment: 150
Study Start Date: November 2000
Estimated Study Completion Date: December 2002
Detailed Description:
In many patients with cerebellar ataxia, the etiology is unknown. Sensitivity to gluten (wheat protein) has been suggested as a cause for cerebellar ataxia even in the absence of malabsorption symptoms or intestinal pathology. However, the prevalence of gluten sensitivity in patients presenting with cerebellar ataxia is unknown and the effect of gluten-free diet on gluten sensitivity-associated cerebellar ataxia has not been systematically studied. The aim of this project is: 1) To identify gluten sensitive cerebellar ataxia patients attending the Human Motor Control Clinic at the NIH using tests for celiac disease antibodies as a screening method. 2) To conduct open-label controlled clinical trial to assess the efficacy of gluten-free diet in the patients identified using a detailed cerebellar ataxia scale as an objective clinical measure.

Ages Eligible for Study:   Child, Adult, Senior
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   Yes

Patients with sporadic cerebellar ataxia of unknown etiology.


Patients with genetically confirmed cerebellar ataxia (SCA1,2,3,6, and 7, Friedreich's ataxia) or cerebellar ataxia due to known cause (e.g., cerebellar infarct, cerebellar degeneration secondary to alcohol abuse).


With no neurological or psychiatric disease and no medical or family history of celiac disease.

  Contacts and Locations
Choosing to participate in a study is an important personal decision. Talk with your doctor and family members or friends about deciding to join a study. To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the Contacts provided below. For general information, see Learn About Clinical Studies.

Please refer to this study by its identifier: NCT00006492

United States, Maryland
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Bethesda, Maryland, United States, 20892
Sponsors and Collaborators
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
  More Information

Publications: Identifier: NCT00006492     History of Changes
Other Study ID Numbers: 010003
Study First Received: November 9, 2000
Last Updated: March 3, 2008

Keywords provided by National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC):
Celiac Disease
Cerebellar Ataxia
Gluten-Free Diet

Additional relevant MeSH terms:
Celiac Disease
Nervous System Diseases
Cerebellar Diseases
Brain Diseases
Central Nervous System Diseases
Intestinal Diseases
Gastrointestinal Diseases
Digestive System Diseases
Metabolic Diseases
Cerebellar Ataxia
Neurologic Manifestations
Signs and Symptoms
Malabsorption Syndromes processed this record on September 21, 2017