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Children's Health Channel
Reported May 18, 2005

Gluten Exposure in Infants Lowers Risk for Celiac Disease

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Lowering your child's risk for celiac disease is associated with exposing them to gluten from cereal grains when they are between 4 and 6 months old, according to a new study.

Celiac disease is characterized by chronic inflammation in the small intestine. It is induced by gluten, found in wheat, rye and barley. It usually develops early in childhood with symptoms that include abdominal pain, diarrhea, malabsorption, and nutrient deficiencies.

Researchers from the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center wanted to determine if an association exists between timing of exposure to cereals and the development of celiac disease autoimmunity (CDA) in children with a predisposition for it. Between 1994 and 2004, they studied 1,560 children who were at an increased risk for celiac disease or type 1 diabetes. Of the children studied, 51 developed CDA. Researchers found children exposed to gluten in the first three months of life were five-times more likely to develop CDA than children exposed between the time they were 4 and 6 months old.

However, researchers say, "Given that our study population was selected for specific genetic and family history characteristics, our findings are generalizable only to children at increased risk for celiac disease."

They add it is possible that exposing children earlier to gluten simply leads to CDA appearing earlier on, and all exposed children who are at-risk will eventually develop CDA. Researchers say further long-term study is needed to address that possibility.

This article was reported by Ivanhoe.com, who offers Medical Alerts by e-mail every day of the week. To subscribe, go to: /newsalert/.

SOURCE: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 2005;293:2343-2351

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