Introducing babies to foods with gluten at certain ages is not a risk factor for celiac disease, according to a recent study in Pediatrics.
The study, published online Jan. 19, showed infants introduced to gluten before 4 months of age or after 6 months of age were not at an increased risk of developing celiac disease, compared with introduction between those ages. Previous research has associated both early and late introduction to gluten with increased risk of celiac disease.
The multinational study included six clinical research centers in Finland, Germany, Sweden and the U.S. Researchers looked at 6,436 children who were genetically predisposed to celiac disease. Five years after the initial study, researchers found that 773 children had developed tTGA, a marker for celiac disease, and 307 children had developed celiac disease, according to the study.
Today, the general recommendation is to introduce small amounts of gluten while the infant is still breastfed, preferably between 4 and 6 months of age, researchers wrote. However, the trials on which the recommendations are based are few and have not yet been evaluated in longitudinal studies to confirm whether these infant feeding recommendations are valid in different populations.
Among the risk factors associated with celiac disease were being from Sweden, being female and having a genetic predisposition to celiac disease, the study stated. There were no significant associations found with maternal education level, maternal age at delivery, smoking during pregnancy or season of birth, the study said.
Lead study author Carin Andrén Aronsson of Lund University in Malmö, Sweden, said in a Reuters report that parents and caregivers still should follow the general guidelines when introducing babies to gluten.
For Europe anyway you should introduce gluten in small amounts at four to six months of ages, Aronsson said in the report. I think we can still stick with that.
A food component often found in cereals such as wheat, rye or barely, gluten is commonly used worldwide in the human diet, the study said. But gluten proteins also are the triggering antigen that is necessary for developing celiac disease, according to the study. Researchers noted that celiac disease is increasing in the Western world, with about one in 100 people having celiac disease.
For people with celiac disease, eating gluten triggers an immune response in their small intestines, according to the Mayo Clinic. This response creates inflammation that damages the small intestines lining, preventing absorption of some nutrients.
Read the full study at http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2015/01/13/peds.2014-1787.abstract.