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Timing Gluten Introduction In Babies Does Not Prevent CD

Parents trying to help their babies avoid inheriting celiac disease have fewer ways to do it, according to two new studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine this fall.

Breast feeding ultimately doesn't help prevent the disease nor does either introducing gluten between 4 and 7 months or after 12. None of those attempts help desensitize a baby to gluten.  Also meaning “Mom, don’t worry about when you introduce your baby to gluten, for now.”

While breast feeding can be helpful for other reasons, it has no effect on developing celiac disease in a genetically prone child.  Celiac disease is the autoimmune disorder triggered by eating wheat, barley and rye, the three sources of gluten. The disease is four to five times more common than it was 50 years ago.

"We don't have a recipe to prevent it right now," said Dr. Alessio Fasano, director of the Center for Celiac Research at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and head of one of the studies.

One study tested 700 Italian babies, waiting to feed them gluten until after they were a year old. By the time they were age 5, there was no difference in the rate of celiac disease whether they started eating gluten at six months or after a year.

Another study tested almost 1,000 infants across Europe to determine if an early start might build tolerance to gluten, but the finding was also negative. Both studies found that the most important factor in whether or not a baby contracted celiac disease was their genetic makeup.  Which points to the importance of screening genetically prone children when they reach school age.

There is ongoing research being conducted in the field of celiac disease with the goal of learning more about how a wide variety of factors contribute to the development of celiac disease.  Stay posted for the latest research developments toward preventive interventions. 

Source: Huffington Post, Marrilynn Marchione,
New England Journal of Medicine, Oct 2, 2014, Delayed introduction to gluten appears not to prevent celiac disease in at-risk infants

Pamela Hasterok