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Spring Birthdays Increases the Risk of Celiac Disease?

If you are into astrology, then supposedly a birth date can tell a lot about a person. If you are into science, then two research studies point to spring and summer birthdays as a potential risk factor for celiac disease (CD). These studies build upon emerging theories that point to the role gluten introduction and viral infections during early childhood can potentially play in the development of CD.

One study, published last October in the Journal of Pediatrics, looked at 1,964 patients with biopsy-proven CD from two pediatric centers and one adult center in Massachusetts. The results found that overall, more patients with CD were born in the spring (27%) as compared with other seasons: summer (25%), fall (25%) and winter (23%). In patients diagnosed before the age of 15, spring birth was present in excess in boys, at 33%, but not in girls. The researchers concluded that season of birth is indeed an environmental risk factor for CD. One of the study authors, Dr. Carlos Camargo of Massachusetts General Hospital for Children had said, "We think that we have identified an important clue."

These results mirror a study published in 2003 in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. The study performed in Sweden looked at 2,151 children below 15 years of age that were diagnosed with CD between 1973 and 1997. Researchers from the Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, at Umeå University, in Umeå, Sweden, found that the risk for CD was significantly higher if a child was born during the summer as compared with the winter, especially in children below 2 years of age at diagnosis.

Tying it together, both sets of researchers note in their conclusions that the results are important not because of the season of birth, but because of what happens to these spring babies months later. It is typically at six months of age when babies are first introduced to solid foods that can contain gluten. Researchers suspect that those born in the warmer months would initially be exposed to gluten during the winter, when viral infections like the flu are more common, and vitamin D levels are typically lower, thus making the immune system more apt to respond abnormally to gluten proteins.

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