September 2012

Brain Allergies


Editorial by Patrick Holford, CEO, Food for the Brain Foundation
Conventional opinion limits the effects of food allergies to inflammatory conditions such as asthma, excema and other skin reactions and digestive disorders. But many food allergies are directly responsible for changes in mood, mental health and brain function.

A vivid example of this is ceoliac disease (wheat gluten or gliadin sensitivity). A recent study [1 by Stuart Currie PhD, and colleagues from the University of Sheffield found that patients with coeliac disease and balance disturbances had significantly smaller brain volumes, less grey matter density and white matter abnormalities than age- and sex-matched controls.

Knowing this it is not surprising to find that a recent meta-analysis study confirms that anxiety and/or depression is reliably linked to coeliac disease [2]. Coeliac disease and raised IgG and IgA antibody levels to gliadin are also found in those with schizophrenia and psychosis [3].

Few psychiatrists consider the possible role of food allergy, and are unaware that food allergies can occur due to either IgE, IgG or IgA based immunological reactions, the latter being responsible for ceoliac disease.

Coeliac disease affects 1 in every 111 normal, healthy adults [4]. Among those who report gastrointestinal symptoms, it occurs in 1 in 40 children and 1 in 30 adults. Among those who have a father, mother, brother, sister, or grandparent with coeliac disease, the risk is 1 in 11. So the condition is far from rare. Wheat gluten sensitivity, often linked to IgG antibodies, is even more common.

Yet up to one in ten people with ceoliac disease go undiagnosed [5] and many more with non-coeliac food allergies suffer a wide variety of health complaints, including anxiety, depression and disperceptions, sometimes diagnosed as schizophrenia, without being investigated for food allergies.

At the Brain Bio Centre we always consider the possibility of food allergy, especially in people with a variety of mental and physical complaints that are potentially indicative of food allergy.

Peter is a case in point. He presented with a long history of mental illness and years of trying various anti-depressants. He was suffering with suicidal thoughts, mania, severe periods of depression along with many unpleasant side effects from the medication. He felt he wanted to be able to “enjoy life to the full” but wasn’t able to.

He had various tests, including an IgG based blood test, which revealed intolerances to many foods, including gluten, egg white, corn and barley. After removing these foods from his diet, along with a supplement programme to support his general health he began to experience fewer spells of feeling down and had noticed a “huge improvement” in his general wellbeing.

Peter did experience a “bad patch” when his symptoms started to return on holiday, which coincided with him straying from his usually healthy allergen-free diet and had almost “binged” on the foods which he was intolerant to. He got his diet back on track and almost immediately began to feel better again. He has now started working and feels as though he has accomplished his goal of enjoying life.

While ceoliac disease is ‘for life’, with eight in ten reacting to gliadin, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, but not oats [6], IgG based reactions often subside after a period of at least three months with no exposure to the allergen. This is because IgG antibodies have a relatively short life and don’t pass on their memory of the offending allergen to the next generation, provided no allergen is consumed. Provided gut health is restored and the allergen strictly avoided, often such intolerances can disappear, resulting in a less restrictive diet.

The gut contains more immune cells, and produces large amounts of neurotransmitters that directly affect the brain and is sometimes called the ‘second brain’. With this understanding gut health becomes a pre-requisite for mental health, and an aspect that should be considered in anyone suffering from mental health problems.

Patrick Holford, CEO, Food for the Brain Foundation


Could a gluten- and casein- free diet be the answer?


Gluten and casein-free diet improves autism symptoms
A recent study found that a gluten and casein-free diet can help symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Both gluten (the main protein found in wheat, rye and barley) and casein (protein in dairy products) were excluded from the diets of 26 children (aged between 4 and 11 years). Various measures of ASD symptoms in these children were compared to symptoms in control ASD children who continued to eat their normal diet. The results suggest that dietary intervention may positively affect developmental outcome for some children diagnosed with ASD.

Our comment: It is notoriously difficult to rigorously test a gluten and casein-free diet – the study cannot be double-blind because the subjects know that their food is different. However, this single-blind study conducted in 2 stages over 2 years makes a very good attempt at assessing the effect of eliminating gluten and casein to positive effect. Our experience at the Brain Bio Centre (and that of many parents of autistic children around the world) finds that the majority of ASD children gain some benefit from avoiding one or both of these proteins. Clearly the avoidance of these proteins found in staple foods is challenging, but is generally worth trying, with the appropriate supervision to ensure the diet remains balanced and healthy. A trial period of one to three months is usually sufficient to determine with a reasonable degree of certainty whether there is likely to be a benefit or not.

Whiteley et al. (2010). The ScanBrit randomised, controlled, single-blind study of a gluten- and casein- free dietary intervention for children with autism spectrum disorders. Nutritional Neuroscience, 13(2) 87-100.

Click here for abstract.


Fish oil boosts reading


Omega-3 improves reading in ‘normal’ children
In this double-blind randomised controlled trial, 362 Oxfordshire children aged 7-9 years old, who were identified as underperforming at reading but were attending mainstream primary schools, were given either a capsule of omega-3 fatty acid DHA (600mg) or a placebo. At the end of the 16-week study, improvements were seen in reading amongst the poorest readers and improvements were also noted in ADHD-type symptoms.

Our comment: Many studies have found that omega-3 oils have shown benefits in children with ADHD and autism. This study saw improvements in ‘normal’ children who had no diagnosed conditions but were simply struggling with reading, suggesting that there might be benefits for ‘normal’ but underperforming children from supplementing fish oil or increasing intake of oily fish. Richardson AJ, et al, (2012) Docosahexaenoic Acid for Reading, Cognition and Behavior in Children Aged 7-9 Years: A Randomized, Controlled Trial (The DOLAB Study).PLoS One. 2012;7(9):e43909.

Click here for abstract.


The right start for baby brain


Healthier foods in infancy lead to more intelligent children
Over 7,000 children had their diets assessed at age 6, 15 and 24 months, and their IQ tested at 8 years old. Children who ate more biscuits, chocolate, sweets, soft drinks and crisps had IQ scores which were 1-2 points lower. Lower IQs were also found in children who ate more ready-prepared baby foods and ready-meals. Children who were breastfed at 6 months and ate more ‘home-made contemporary’ food (herbs, pulses, cheese, raw fruit and vegetables) had IQ scores which were 1-2 points higher. A ‘home-made traditional’ type diet (meat, cooked vegetables, desserts) had no real effect.

Our comment: This is really no surprise. What your child eats from birth (and probably nutrition in the womb) has an effect on their physical and mental development. A better diet equals a better brain.

Smithers LG et al. (2012) Dietary patterns at 6, 15 and 24 months of age are associated with IQ at 8 years of age. Eur J Epidemiol. Jul;27(7):525-35..

Click here for abstract.


Fundraising Manager


We are looking for a volunteer who could help develop a fundraising strategy, lead on fundraising activities and coordinate the activity of the other volunteers to raise funds for our research projects. If you are interested and can spare the time then please email your CV to and title your email "Fundraising Manager".


Help us apply for research grants


We are looking for a volunteer who has experience in applying for grant funding for research projects. If you are interested becoming part of the volunteer team and can spare the time then please email your CV to and title your email "Grants Volunteer".

For more information on our research projects that will benefit from fundraising visit our website.


Help us with legal support


If you are in the legal profession or have experience of legislation and regulatory frameworks around complementary therapies, data protection and/or advertising standards then we would appreciate your help. If you are interested and available then please email and title your email "Legal Support".


Chy Sawel Project


A One Day Conference on 'Mental Illness in the 21st Century'
Will be held on Thursday 18th October 2012 at Alverton Manor Hotel, Tregolls Road, Truro, TR1 1ZQ.

Chy-Sawel is a Charity that aims to support and promote treatments of chronic mental illness by natural methods with an ultimate goal of opening their own Treatment Centre. Mental illness, in its many guises, is the country's major medical problem - past and current research shows that an holistic, nutrition based, treatment approach is the way forward......a theme that the speakers will emphasize.

Click here for further details.


Facebook and Twitter Goes Live


Here at Food For The brain we are excited to announce that we have entered in to

the world of social media. You can ‘Like us’ on Facebook and ‘follow us’ on Twitter to keep up to date with all the latest happenings in the world of mental health and nutrition and to easily make contact with us for any queries you may have.


Back to school


Lunchboxes for Smart Kids
With the kids returning to school after the summer break it is the ideal time to make a clear plan to ensure that the lunches that you are providing for your children are providing them with all the nutrients that they need for optimum brain function. This is of course necessary to ensure that they are able to focus, understand what they are learning and most importantly retain the information that they have learned. To help you in planning your lunches here are a few ideas to what a healthy lunch box might look like.

Healthy lunch boxes should include:

A piece of fruit or chopped raw a handful of nuts or seeds, a yoghurt or a dip such as hummus, cottage cheese or cream cheese to provide protein for a more sustaining, low sugar snack, if possible.

Water - or diluted, sugar-free, pure fruit juice.

Main lunch item, such as a sandwich, wrap or salad...ideally sandwiches should be made with wholegrain bread (such as wholemeal bread or pitta bread), rye breador with oatcakes. Don’t buy bread simply labelled ‘brown’ – it is likely to be white bread that has simply been dyed brown! Make sure the label says ‘wholemeal’. Or choose an ‘all-in-one’ white bread ‘with added goodness’. Include some protein in sandwiches and salads (such as chicken, turkey, eggs, tuna, salmon or hummus) and vegetables (salad or raw vegetables chopped into bite-sized portions).

Listed below are some of our favourites:

  • Smoked salmon, cream cheese and cucumber on wholemeal/‘all-in one’ white bread or rye bread.
  • Oatcakes and vegetable sticks (crudites) with hummus or cottage cheese dip.
  • Wholemeal pitta bread stuffed with soy and sesame seasoned tuna with lettuce and cherry tomatoes.
  • Egg mayonnaise on wholemeal/‘all-in-one’ white bread with cress, alfalfa sprouts (which look and taste very similar to cress) or cucumber slices.
  • Peanut butter (or other nut/seed butter) and cucumber on wholemeal/‘all-in-one’ white bread.
  • Cottage cheese and prawns on wholemeal/‘all-in-one’ white bread or in wholemeal pitta bread.
  • Chicken salad wrap. Sliced chicken, with a mixed salad, wrapped in a tortilla.
  • TLT (turkey, lettuce and tomato on wholemeal/‘all-in-one’ white bread or in wholemeal pitta bread).
  • Ham (unprocessed and not made from reconstituted meat, but off the bone from the deli) and coleslaw on wholemeal/ ‘all-in-one’ white bread or in wholemeal pitta bread.

For more information on food for smart Kids visit the Smart Kids pages on our website.




[1] Currie S, et al., ‘Should we be 'nervous' about coeliac disease? Brain abnormalities in patients with coeliac disease referred for neurological opinion.’ J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2012 Aug 20. Click here for abstract

[2] Smith DF, Gerdes LU. ‘Meta-analysis on anxiety and depression in adult coeliac disease.’ Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2012 Mar;125(3):189-93 Click here for abstract

[3] Dickerson F. et al., ‘Markers of gluten sensitivity and coeliac disease in recent-onset psychosis and multi-episode schizophrenia.’ Biol Psychiatry. 2010 Jul 1;68(1):100-4. Click here for abstract

[4] Gerarduzzi,T. et al., coeliac disease in USA among risk groups and general popula- tion in USA, J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr, vol. 31, pp. 104 (2000).

[5] Steele R; Diagnosis and management of coeliac disease in children. Postgrad Med J. 2011 Jan;87(1023):19-25. Click here for abstract

[6] S. Storsrud et al., ‘Adult coeliac patients do tolerate large amounts of oats’, Eur J Clin Nutr, Vol 57, 2003, pp. 163-169; L. Hogberg et al., ‘Oats to children with newly diagnosed coeliac disease: A randomised double blind study’, Gut, Vol 54, 2004, pp. 649-654 Click here for abstract

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