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  • Jefferson Adams

    Is the Amount of a Baby's First Gluten an Important Factor in Celiac Disease?

    Jefferson Adams
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    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      Could the amount of gluten matter more than breast-feeding or the timing of the introduction of gluten as a trigger for celiac disease?


    Image: CC--nicole danielson
    Caption: Image: CC--nicole danielson

    Celiac.com 10/28/2016 - Researchers still don't know why some people develop celiac disease or gluten intolerance, but a number of studies have focused on factors including breast-feeding, dietary habits, the timing of the introduction of gluten and geographical origin.

    Sweden is a high-risk country for the development of celiac disease in early life, with rates in some areas approaching 2%, nearly double that of most population baseline levels. Carin Andrén Aronsson is a dietician and doctoral student at Sweden's Lund University. Her research, ahead of her public thesis defense, indicates that the amount of gluten matter more than breast-feeding or the timing of introduction of gluten as a trigger for celiac disease.



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    This is one of the findings from several extensive studies of children with an increased genetic risk of celiac disease conducted by researchers at Lund University in Sweden. "Our findings indicate that the amount of gluten triggers the disease," says Aronsson. Her research team has also observed that the dietary habits among the children they studied vary from one country to another, and that "there are reasons to analyze the significance of this variation more closely," she added.

    All the research in Aronsson's thesis is based on small children born with an increased genetic risk of celiac disease. Some of her most important conclusions are:

    • Swedish children who reported consuming more than 5 grams of gluten per day up to the age of two years had twice the risk of developing celiac disease compared to children who consumed a smaller amount, while children with celiac disease reported eating more gluten druing that period.
    • The risk of developing the autoimmunity which gives rise to celiac disease was highest in Sweden compared to Finland, Germany and USA, which were also studied.
    • There was no apparent connection between the duration of the period of breast-feeding and the risk of developing celiac disease.

    Further study could help explain why Swedish children develop celiac disease earlier than children in other countries.

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    How do they know the increased gluten "triggered" celiac disease? Could it not be as equally possible that children with celiac disease crave gluten and thus eat more of it? Seems to me we've seen quite a few studies about what "causes" celiac disease, many of their conclusions seem to be proved wrong upon further study. Let's see more studies done before we come to any conclusions.

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    How do they know the increased gluten "triggered" celiac disease? Could it not be as equally possible that children with celiac disease crave gluten and thus eat more of it? Seems to me we've seen quite a few studies about what "causes" celiac disease, many of their conclusions seem to be proved wrong upon further study. Let's see more studies done before we come to any conclusions.

    The study is not about children, it is about infants. Infants who have never had gluten likely do not crave gluten. The study looks at the connection between amounts of an infant´s first gluten and at how those levels correspond to later celiac diagnosis. The data are pretty clear. The amount seems to be much more important than the timing of first gluten introduction. The conclusion is pretty solid, based on the data.

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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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