For parents with children at risk of developing coeliac disease the timing of gluten introduction and the quantity has long been a concern. Now a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has shown that at-risk children who eat higher amounts of gluten before the age of five have an increased chance of developing coeliac disease.

The study involving more than 6,600 children from four countries found that at-risk children who consumed more than 2 grams of gluten a day (the equivalent of a slice of bread) at the age of two had a “significantly increased risk” of developing coeliac disease. For every extra gram of gluten consumed each day, the likelihood of developing coeliac disease increased by seven percent.

“In my opinion, children who have a first-degree relative with coeliac disease (a mother, father or sibling) may have to be careful with high intakes of gluten in the diet,” said Dr Carin Andrén Aronsson, a lead author of the study and study manager of the diabetes and coeliac disease unit, Lund University, Sweden. “Children who do not have a first degree relative (with coeliac disease) should eat a “normal diet,” she said, noting the difficulty of getting enough vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre on the gluten-free diet.”