Timing of Gluten Introduction Not a Risk for Developing Celiac Disease

baby eating from spoon
Photo via Flickr by acheron0 (Creative Commons)

New parents often worry about when they should introduce potential allergens to their child’s diet.

They may have heard contradictory information about whether it’s wiser to introduce allergens early or avoid them until much later in an effort to forestall the onset of reactions in their child.

That kind of concern is top of mind for parents whose children are genetically predisposed to celiac.

But there’s good news for those parents. A recent study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that the timing of the first introduction of gluten was not an independent risk factor for developing celiac disease by five years of age.

The researchers looked at a large multinational cohort of 6,436 high-risk children, of which five per cent were ultimately diagnosed with celiac disease.

A sidebar to the study points out that, until now, “both early and late introduction to gluten has been associated with an increased risk for celiac disease, and being breastfed at the time of gluten introduction has been associated with a lower risk for CD.”

International recommendations have long advised parents to introduce small amounts of gluten while their infant was still being breastfed, preferably between four and six months of age.

But the study’s authors note that “the trials on which the recommendations are based are few and have not yet been evaluated in longitudinal studies to confirm whether these infant feeding recommendations are valid in different populations.”

The study should provide a measure of relief to parents whose children are at high risk of developing celiac, and who have been wondering whether the timing of their child’s introduction to gluten might cause their child to develop the disease.

As this commentary in MD Magazine notes, “this study provides significant reassurance that age of initiation of gluten containing foods does not seem to be causative in the first five years of life.”

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