Celiac.com 06/06/2002 - Results of a recent study conducted by Anneli Ivarsson and colleagues at Umea University in Sweden suggest that continuing to breast-feed infants while they are being introduced to new foods may reduce their risk of getting celiac disease. Dr. Ivarssons study suggests that the cause of celiac disease may include environmental factors, and not just be limited to genetic factors. Their study evaluated the breast-feeding habits of 627 children with celiac disease and 1,254 healthy children, and specifically looked at their responses to newly introduced foods. The results, published in the May issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, indicate that dietary patterns of infants may have a strong influence on the bodys immune responses, and certain dietary patterns could lead to lifelong food intolerances. Children under 2 years of age who were still being breast-fed when they were introduced to dietary gluten had a 40% lower incidence of celiac disease.
Another important factor was the overall amount of gluten in an infants diet, and a direct correlation was found between increased gluten consumption and an increased incidence of celiac disease. According to the researchers, the protective effect of breast feeding was even more pronounced in infants who were breast-fed beyond the introduction of gluten. Ultimately the teams findings indicate that breast feeding infants through the period of gluten introduction can significantly lower their risk of getting celiac disease. More research needs to be done to determine if this protective effect will extend over a lifetime.