A study, done by the European Prevent Celiac Disease project, showed no support for European guidelines for the introduction of small amounts of gluten. Currently, those guidelines recommend gluten introduction between the ages of 4 and 7 months - while the child is still breast-feeding,
The infants were all required to have one of three genetic markers making them high-risk for developing celiac disease. They were split into two groups, one receiving gluten supplements and the other a placebo. The results of the study showed no significant difference between the two groups; both showed the same incidence of disease development by the age of 3, although the girls in the study seemed to have a higher rate of confirmed celiac. The researchers could not determine if this is because there were a higher number of girls in the randomly assigned groups.
Also, the study revealed that the choice to breastfeed, or the length of time a child was breastfed, did not significantly affect the progression of the development of celiac disease. The guidelines for feeding are similar to those in the US, suggesting that gluten be introduced while still breast-feeding. These guidelines were based on a large outbreak of celiac disease in Sweden during the 1980s.
Researchers believe that further study is necessary before the guidelines will be altered; but, it appears that the individual genetic markers are more telling than food introductions in the development of celiac disease in high risk children. Find out more about our Pediatric department and celiac disease.