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Does Timing of First Gluten in Infants Lower Celiac Disease Risk?

Celiac.com 11/03/2014 - Some data have suggested that introducing gluten to infants at 4 to 6 months of age can help to lower the risk of celiac disease. To get a clearer picture of any potential benefits of introducing gluten within this time period, a team of researchers performed a multi-center, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled dietary-intervention study.

Photo: CC--Michael CarmodyThe research team included Sabine L. Vriezinga, M.D., Renata Auricchio, M.D., Enzo Bravi, M.S., Gemma Castillejo, M.D., Anna Chmielewska, M.D., Ph.D., Paula Crespo Escobar, B.Sc., Sanja Kolaček, M.D., Ph.D., Sibylle Koletzko, M.D., Ph.D., Ilma R. Korponay-Szabo, M.D., Ph.D., Eckart Mummert, Ph.D., Isabel Polanco, M.D., Ph.D., Hein Putter, Ph.D., Carmen Ribes-Koninckx, M.D., Ph.D., Raanan Shamir, M.D., Ph.D., Hania Szajewska, M.D., Ph.D., Katharina Werkstetter, M.Sc., M.P.H., Luigi Greco, M.D., Ph.D., Judit Gyimesi, M.D., Corina Hartman, M.D., Caroline Hogen Esch, M.D., Ph.D., Erica Hopman, R.D., Ph.D., Anneli Ivarsson, M.D., Ph.D., Tunde Koltai, Ir., Frits Koning, Ph.D., Eva Martinez-Ojinaga, M.D., Chantal te Marvelde, B.Sc., Ana Pavic, M.D., Jihane Romanos, Ph.D., Els Stoopman, Vincenzo Villanacci, M.D., Ph.D., Cisca Wijmenga, Ph.D., Ricardo Troncone, M.D., Ph.D., and M. Luisa Mearin, M.D., Ph.D.

For their study, the team recruited 944 children who were positive for HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8, with at least one first-degree relative with celiac disease. From 16 to 24 weeks of age, 475 participants received 100 mg of immunologically active gluten daily, and 469 received placebo.

The team then made periodic measurements of anti–transglutaminase type 2 and antigliadin antibodies. The overall goal was to determine the frequency of biopsy-confirmed celiac disease at 3 years of age.

The team confirmed celiac disease through biopsy in 77 children, while three more received a celiac diagnosis of based on the 2012 European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition diagnostic criteria for a total of 80 celiac children.

The cumulative incidence of celiac disease among patients 3 years of age was 5.2% (95% confidence interval [CI], 3.6 to 6.8), with similar rates in the gluten group and the placebo group (5.9% [95% CI, 3.7 to 8.1] and 4.5% [95% CI, 2.5 to 6.5], respectively; hazard ratio in the gluten group, 1.23; 95% CI, 0.79 to 1.91). Both groups also showed similar rates of elevated levels of anti–transglutaminase type 2 and antigliadin antibodies (7.0% [95% CI, 4.7 to 9.4] in the gluten group and 5.7% [95% CI, 3.5 to 7.9] in the placebo group; hazard ratio, 1.14; 95% CI, 0.76 to 1.73).

The team also noted that breast-feeding, regardless of whether it was exclusive or whether it was ongoing during gluten introduction, had no substantial impact on the later development of celiac disease.

Compared to the placebo, introducing small quantities of gluten to high-risk children at 16 to 24 weeks of age had no impact on rates of celiac disease at 3 years of age. So, basically, the data show that there is no need for parents to fret or worry about when their child first begins to consume gluten.

There is no magic window or timeframe for introducing gluten to their child’s diet that will change the risk for developing celiac disease later on.

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