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  • Jefferson Adams

    How do Gluten Introduction, HLA Status Impact Celiac Disease Risk in Children?

    Jefferson Adams
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    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Celiac.com 10/31/2014 - The relationship between the risk of celiac disease and both the age at which gluten is introduced to a child’s diet and a child’s early dietary pattern is unclear.

    Photo: Wikimedia Commons--David R. TribbleA team of researchers set out to examine how the introduction of dietary gluten and HLA status impact the risk of celiac disease in children.



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    The research team included Elena Lionetti, M.D., Stefania Castellaneta, M.D., Ruggiero Francavilla, M.D., Ph.D., Alfredo Pulvirenti, Ph.D., Elio Tonutti, M.D., Sergio Amarri, M.D., Maria Barbato, M.D., Cristiana Barbera, M.D., Graziano Barera, M.D., Antonella Bellantoni, M.D., Emanuela Castellano, M.D., Graziella Guariso, M.D., Maria Giovanna Limongelli, M.D., Salvatore Pellegrino, M.D., Carlo Polloni, M.D., Claudio Ughi, M.D., Giovanna Zuin, M.D., Alessio Fasano, M.D., and Carlo Catassi, M.D., M.P.H.

    They are variously affiliated with the Departments of Pediatrics (E.L.) and Clinical and Molecular Biomedicine (A.P.), University of Catania, the Department of Pediatrics, San Paolo Hospital (S.C.), and the Department of Developmental Biomedicine, University of Bari (R.F.), Bari, the Department of Immunopathology and Allergology, Udine Hospital, Udine (E.T.), the Department of Pediatrics, Azienda Ospedaliera IRCCS Santa Maria Nuova Hospital, Reggio Emilia (S.A.), the Department of Pediatrics, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome (M.B.), the Department of Pediatrics, University of Turin, Turin (C.B.), the Department of Pediatrics, San Raffaele Hospital (G.B.), and the Department of Pediatrics, Vittore Buzzi Children’s Hospital, Milan (G.Z.), the Department of Pediatrics, Bianchi Melacrino Morelli Hospital, Reggio Calabria (A.B.), Pediatric Gastroenterology Unit, Giannina Gaslini Institute, Genoa (E.C.), the Department of Pediatrics, University of Padua, Padua (G.G.), the Department of Pediatrics, Federico II University of Naples, Naples (M.G.L.), Pediatric Gastroenterology and Cystic Fibrosis Unit, University Hospital Gaetano Martino, Messina (S.P.), the Department of Pediatrics, Rovereto Hospital, Rovereto (Trento) (C.P.), the Department of Pediatrics, University of Pisa, Pisa (C.U.), and the Department of Pediatrics, Marche Polytechnic University, Ancona (C.C.) — all in Italy; and the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition and Center for Celiac Research, MassGeneral Hospital for Children (A.F.), and the Celiac Program, Harvard Medical School (A.F., C.C.) — both in Boston.

    For their study, the team randomly divided 832 newborns who had first-degree relatives with celiac disease into groups that received their first dietary gluten at 6 months (group A) or 12 months (group B).

    The team determined HLA genotype at 15 months of age, and conducted serologic screening for celiac disease at 15, 24, and 36 months, and again at 5, 8, and 10 years.

    Patients with positive serologic findings received intestinal biopsies. The primary focus was on rates of celiac disease autoimmunity and of overt celiac disease among the children at 5 years of age.

    A total of 707 children completed the 36 month trial. Of those, 553 had a standard-risk or high-risk HLA genotype and completed the study.

    At 2 years of age, substantially higher percentages of children in group A than in group B had celiac disease autoimmunity (16% vs. 7%, P=0.002) and overt celiac disease (12% vs. 5%, P=0.01). At 5 years of age, there were no longer significant differences between the groups in terms of autoimmunity (21% in group A and 20% in group B, P=0.59) or overt disease (16% and 16%, P=0.78 by the log-rank test). At 10 years, the risk of celiac disease autoimmunity was far higher among children with high-risk HLA than among those with standard-risk HLA (38% vs. 19%, P=0.001), as was the risk of overt celiac disease (26% vs. 16%, P=0.05).

    Other variables, including breast-feeding, were not associated with the development of celiac disease.

    So, the short take away here is that, according to this study, neither delayed introduction of gluten nor breast-feeding had any effect on celiac disease rates among at-risk infants. However, children who experienced later introduction of gluten showed a delay in the onset of disease.

    Lastly, the important predictor of disease was having a high-risk HLA genotype.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,500 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.


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