Does the age gluten is introduced to the diet influence the development of coeliac disease?

With food allergies on the rise, there has been much debate about when to introduce certain foods into the diets of infants.  However, when it comes coeliac disease, there is no link between the time gluten is introduced to the diet and the development of the condition in at-risk infants.

An international study led by researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital in the United States examined more than 700 infants over a five-year period. The children selected for the study were considered at risk, as a first-degree relative (parent or sibling) had already received a coeliac disease diagnosis.

“One of our most important findings was that the timing of gluten introduction – whether early or late in the first year of life – made no difference to the subsequent development of coeliac disease,” said lead researcher Dr Carlo Catassi. “Earlier studies led to the hypothesis that there was a time window, between four and seven months of age, during which gluten could safely be introduced to at-risk children. Our results indicate we can tell mothers not to worry so much about when they introduce gluten into their children’s diet,” he says.

The development of coeliac disease remains a question of genes. “Of the several factors we studied, it’s very clear that genetic background is by far the most important (factor) in determining which infants will develop this autoimmune condition,” says Dr Alessio Fasano, head of The Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at Massachusetts General and a co-author of the study.

Gluten introduction and your child first appeared in the Research News section Issue 4 of Australian Gluten-Free Life magazine titled To gluten or not to gluten.

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