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Feeding gluten to at-risk children shown to up risk of coeliac disease by 2 fold, study

Posted:  Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Numerous studies have tried to establish if early feeding of gluten to infants influences the risk of coeliac disease later on. However, Swedish researchers seem to have cracked the puzzle partially with the results of their new study. They found that feeding gluten foods till 2 years of life in children with genetic risk factors increases the risk of coeliac disease by 2 folds.

The risk for coeliac disease is determined by exposure to gluten and the presence of any one of the HLA haplotypes DR3-DQ2 or DR4-DQ8 genes. For the study, the researchers consulted a database of 2,525 children with genetic susceptibility to coeliac disease in Sweden. They selected 146 cases, resulting in 436 pairs of children matched for sex, birth year and HLA genotype with non-risk patients, who formed the control group. The study was conducted from September 2004 to February 2010 and the findings were published in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

Gluten intake was calculated from 3-day food records collected when the children were 9, 12, 18 and 24 months old. The researchers found that children who were genetically predisposed and fed gluten before 2 years of age develop coeliac disease. "This finding offers insight into why some, but not all, children at genetic risk develop coeliac disease,” said the researchers

The researchers also note that infant feeding practices in Sweden are different from that in other European countries and US. Traditionally in Sweden, gluten containing foods are initiated early in children and that too in large quantities. Hence, the researchers ask for further studies in other countries on gluten feeding to young children to understand the subsequent risk of coeliac disease.

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