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Celiac disease risk rises in infants exposed to gluten

Lana Bandoim's picture

A new study has found that the risk of celiac disease increases in infants who are fed gluten before the age of two. Researchers point out that the risk is tied to genetics. They believe they may have found one of the key reasons why some children with a genetic predisposition for celiac disease develop the condition. It appears that the amount of gluten that an infant eats can have a large impact on the development of the disease.


Gluten exposure at a young age

Researchers carefully note that they cannot prove a cause and effect relationship at this time. However, their findings indicate that children who eat gluten before the age of two have a higher risk of developing celiac disease. The study, published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, reveals that exposure to gluten at a young age needs to be monitored in children with genetic risk factors.

“Intake of gluten before 2 years of age increases risk of celiac disease at least 2-fold in children with genetic risk factors for this disease. This association did not differ among HLA-DR3-DQ2 haplotypes. These findings may be taken into account for future infant feeding recommendations,” the researchers said.

Genetics and celiac disease

The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness mentions that genes play a role in celiac disease. If a parent or sibling has the condition, then other family members are more likely to also have the disease. There are several genetic risk factors involved, and researchers continue to study them. The HLA-DQ2 gene appears in 95 percent of the patients who have celiac disease, and the HLA-DQ8 gene is also common. These genes increase the risk of getting celiac disease, but they do not guarantee that a person will end up with this medical condition.

Feeding patterns in children

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Researchers mention that feeding routines are different in Sweden, and children under the age of two are generally exposed to more gluten in their food. This is why evaluating their risk of developing celiac disease was easier. However, the findings may be applied to any household that has a young child exposed to gluten.

“If you are to conclude something from this study, it's that reducing the amount of gluten in the first few years of life might reduce the risk of celiac in children who are predisposed genetically for celiac disease,” Dr. Joseph Levy said.

Gluten concerns and recommendations

Medical experts would like to see more studies on this subject before making a definite recommendation for parents who are worried about gluten. If you are concerned about celiac disease, then you may want to talk to your doctor and pediatrician. You can ask about genetic tests and other tests for your child.

It is also important to monitor your baby after exposure to gluten and pay attention to side effects. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of celiac disease in infants include chronic diarrhea, swollen stomachs, weight loss and stomach pain. In addition, you may see failure to thrive, which is a condition characterized by children not gaining weight or growing, in these cases. Some children may also experience rashes. However, children may not experience any symptoms and still have celiac disease.

Cereals and babies

Most parents enjoy the simplicity of feeding a child cereal. It is a convenient and fast way to give them the nutrition they need. However, cereals that contain gluten can be dangerous for children with celiac disease. If you feed your child these types of cereals, then it is important to pay attention to how they react. In some cases, children may have an immediate reaction to the gluten. If you are concerned about your child’s health, then contact your doctor immediately and discuss the issues.