Impaired intestinal cholecystokinin secretion, a fascinating but overlooked link between coeliac disease and cholesterol gallstone disease

Helen H. Wang, Min Liu, Xiaodan Li, Piero Portincasa, David Q.H. Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background: Coeliac disease is a chronic, small intestinal, immune-mediated enteropathy caused by a permanent intolerance to dietary gluten in genetically predisposed individuals. Clinical studies have found that intestinal cholecystokinin secretion and gallbladder emptying in response to a fatty meal are impaired before coeliac patients start the gluten-free diet (GFD). Design: However, it was never really appreciated whether coeliac disease is associated with gallstones because there were very few studies investigating the mechanism underlying the impact of coeliac disease on the pathogenesis of gallstones. Results: We summarize recent progress on the relationship between coeliac disease and gallstones and propose that coeliac disease is an important risk factor for gallstone formation because defective intestinal cholecystokinin secretion markedly increases susceptibility to cholesterol gallstones via a mechanism involving dysmotility of both the gallbladder and the small intestine. Because GFD can significantly improve the coeliac enteropathy, early diagnosis and therapy in coeliac patients is crucial for preventing the long-term impact of cholecystokinin deficiency on the biliary and intestinal consequences. When gluten is reintroduced, clinical and histologic relapse often occurs in coeliac patients. Moreover, some of the coeliac patients do not respond well to GFD. Conclusions: It is imperative to routinely examine by ultrasonography whether gallbladder motility function is preserved in coeliac patients and monitor whether biliary sludge (a precursor of gallstones) appears in the gallbladder, regardless of whether they are under the GFD programme. To prevent gallstones in coeliac patients, it is urgently needed to investigate the prevalence and pathogenesis of gallstones in these patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)328-333
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Journal of Clinical Investigation
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • bile salt
  • cholesterol crystallization
  • gallbladder motility
  • lithogenic bile

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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