Eating gluten early on tied to higher risk of celiac disease


While you may know friends or family members who have hopped on the gluten-free train, celiac disease is a medical condition that actually requires patients to live a gluten-free lifestyle. Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that causes patients to experience a reaction in the small intestine after consuming products that contain gluten — a protein found in whole grains such as wheat, barley or rye, or its byproducts like cereal, bread and butter.

The unusual reaction damages the lining of the small intestine and causes malabsorption, and can also lead to other health problems such as diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, bloating and anemia.

Around 3 million Americans are living with celiac disease, and the exact cause is unknown. But according to a study recently published in JAMA, researchers found that eating excess gluten during the first five years of life can increase your risk of developing the disease.

To conduct the study, researchers looked at more than 6,600 newborns in the United States, Finland, Germany and Sweden, born between 2004 and 2010. All of the newborns carried a genotype associated with celiac disease, as well as Type 1 diabetes. The researchers recorded each child’s gluten intake every few months until they turned 5 years old, and compared the intake to that of healthy children of the same age.

Nearly 20% of the children — 1,216 participants — developed celiac disease autoimmunity over the course of the study, which is the first sign the body is responding negatively to gluten. Another 7% of the children — 450 participants — developed celiac disease, and the majority of the diagnoses occurred between the ages of 2 and 3.

Overall, a higher gluten intake early on in life was associated with a 6.1% increased risk of developing celiac disease autoimmunity, and a 7.2% increased risk of developing celiac disease, per each extra gram of gluten per day.

Indicators that your child may have celiac disease include vomiting, a swollen belly, chronic diarrhea, poor appetite, constipation, weight loss, irritability, short stature or delayed puberty, and neurological symptoms such as ADHD, learning disabilities, headaches, lack of muscle coordination and seizures.


November 3, 2019


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