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Celiac.com 06/10/2011 - Children born in the spring or summer seem to have higher rates of celiac disease, according to a study of Massachusetts children. This higher rate could be tied to certain seasonal and environmental factors, according to researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children.

Potential triggers for celiac disease seem to include the timing of infants' introduction to gluten and of viral infections during the first year of life.

The research team hypothesized that the season of a child's birth might influence rates of celiac disease, since babies commonly receive their first foods with gluten at about six months of age, which for children born in spring or summer would mean the beginning of the winter cold season.

The research team assessed 382 patients with biopsy-confirmed celiac disease, whose age at diagnosis ranged from 11 months to 19 years.

Among older children (ages 15 to 19), there was virtually no difference in birth season (categorized as light, meaning March to August, or dark, defining September to February).

But the group of 317 children under 15 years old showed an significant difference. As a group, 57 percent had been born in a light season, whereas 43 percent were born during a dark season.

Given the prevalence of celiac disease in children, the study carries potential importance for families and doctors.

Lead researcher and clinical research fellow, Pornthep Tanpowpong, MD, MPH, said the findings might invite researchers health care professionals to rethink their recommended time frame for introducing a children to cereals and other foods that contain gluten.

He adds that other potential causative season-of-birth factors, such as sunlight exposure and vitamin D status, also deserve investigation.

For people born in the spring or the summer, it might be more appropriate to introduce gluten at a different point than someone born in the fall or winter, said Dr. Tanpowpong. "Although we need to further develop and test our hypothesis, we think it provides a helpful clue for ongoing efforts to prevent celiac disease."


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