Coeliac disease

The moment children are given gluten does not seem to have any effect on the development of a gluten intolerance. An international team of scientists, including Sabine Vriezinga from Leiden University Medical Centre as the first author, describe an intervention study among small children in the prestigious journal New England Journal of Medicine.

Currently, parents are advised to expose babies with family members with coeliac disease to gluten –wheat proteins – on time so that they can become accustomed to it. "On time" means four to six months. Vriezinga and her colleagues handed out powder containing either only lactose or lactose with a tiny amount of gluten to the parents of 944 babies with a family history of coeliac disease. The parents, who didn’t know which powder they had been given, were asked to feed it to their offspring. Then the scientists waited some years to see whether the babies developed coeliac disease as they grew up.

Their conclusion: the powder’s contents did not have any effect: the children either developed coeliac disease or they didn’t. It did not matter whether they had been breastfed for shorter or longer periods either. The authors decided that there is no scientific evidence to support the current gluten guidelines.

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