Baby feeding factors into risk for celiac disease

October 15, 2013

Delaying the introduction of gluten to a child’s diet past the age of 6 months may increase the child’s risk for celiac disease, as may breastfeeding children beyond 1 year of age.

 

Delaying the introduction of gluten to a child’s diet past the age of 6 months may increase the child’s risk for celiac disease, as may breastfeeding children beyond 1 year of age.

The findings come from the first population-based birth cohort study on the topic. The Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study included over 100,000 participants and found that celiac disease was diagnosed in 3.68/1,000 of the infants introduced to gluten at 5 to 6 months of age versus in 4.15/1,000 of the children introduced to gluten after 6 months of age and in 4.24/1,000 children introduced to gluten at 4 months of age or younger.

After adjusting for age, gender, breastfeeding, and maternal celiac disease status, delaying gluten introduction was associated with an increased risk of developing celiac disease by age 2 years of about 27%, while early introduction was not associated with any significantly increased risk. The researchers caution, however, that only 8% of the study population was introduced to gluten before 5 months of age and only 0.9% started eating gluten before 4 months, so the power to assess an association was low.

Similarly, after adjusting for maternal celiac disease status, age and gender of the child, and age at introduction of gluten, breastfeeding infants beyond 12 months of age increased the risk for celiac disease by about half over those children breastfed for less than 6 months.

According to the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, about 1% of Americans or about 3 million people in the United States have celiac disease, but up to 97% are undiagnosed. Some research suggests that prevalence is up to 5 times higher in children than in adults. 

 

 

To get weekly clinical advice for today's pediatrician, subscribe to the Contemporary Pediatrics eConsult.