A new study published last week in JAMA has found that young children who were fed gluten-rich foods, such as bread and pasta, were more likely to develop celiac disease and gluten intolerance.
Researchers wrote, “Higher gluten intake during the first 5 years of life was associated with increased risk of celiac disease autoimmunity and celiac disease among genetically predisposed children.”
The study found that young kids who ate more foods containing gluten were 7.2 percent more likely to develop celiac disease and 6.1 percent more likely to suffer from “celiac disease autoimmunity.”
Celiac disease autoimmunity is characterized by the presence of antibodies that are associated with celiac disease and signal the development of the condition.
Clair Baker, the author at Beyond Celiac, non-profit dedicated to raising awareness of celiac disease, said, “These are quite notable findings and could have impacts in terms of guidelines for what foods babies are introduced to and when.”
The researchers looked at more than 6,600 children who were born between 2004 and 2010. All of the children had a genotype linked to celiac disease and type 1 diabetes. Their gluten intake was monitored at 6, 9 and 12 months an twice a year until they turned 5.
Study author Carin Andrén Aronsson told USA Today, “We follow the children from the age of 4 months until 15 years of age. This fall, the oldest in the cohort turn 15 and leave the study.”
The researchers found that 18 percent of the children developed celiac disease autoimmunity at the age of 2 and 7 percent developed celiac disease at the age of 3.
Baker said, “That could have a long-term impact on guidelines pediatricians give their patients for newborns.”
“Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that’s triggered when you eat gluten. It’s also known as celiac sprue, nontropical sprue, or gluten-sensitive enteropathy,” according to WebMD. In the United States, more than 3 million people have celiac disease.
“The implications could be quite far-reaching, but I’m sure before anything like that happens we need more research,” said Baker. Aronsson said, “Our study is only an observational study, the next step is to do intervention studies where we test if we can find a safe level of gluten intake for children at-risk for celiac disease.”