Birth season affects celiac disease

By Van Waffle

Italian researchers have found that the season in which a child is born influences the development of celiac disease in young children, with babies born in the summer having a greater risk.

Celiac disease is known to be triggered by some environmental factor, possibly viral infection. The authors suggest summer babies may be at risk if they’re weaned and introduced to gluten during flu season.

The study collected data on all 596 children diagnosed with celiac disease through two Italian hospitals between 2003 and 2010. National statistics provided a comparison of all infants born in the same two cities during that period. Twenty-eight percent of children with celiac disease compared to 23 percent of children overall were born in summer.

This is the first study to investigate seasonal effect in southern Europe. Previous Swedish studies also found an increased summer risk. In the Boston area a 2013 study found an increased risk for spring births among boys only.

The authors suggest potential causes such as heat stress during pregnancy and a child’s exposure to viruses in winter, when summer babies are likely to be weaned and begin eating gluten-containing cereal. Although recent research dismissed hopes that the age when infants are introduced to gluten could reduce their risk for
celiac disease, those studies didn’t consider birth season. Since viral infections have been linked to celiac disease, this study suggests it’s better to avoid introducing gluten during flu season to babies with a family history of the disorder.


Capriati T, Francavilla R, Castellaneta S, Ferretti F and Diamanti A, “Impact of the birth’s season on the development of celiac disease in Italy,” European Journal of Pediatrics, Jul 5, 2015, doi:10.1007/s00431-015-2589-2.

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