Introducing gluten to children

By Van Waffle

Start small and don’t wait too long: That’s the takeaway advice from two recent studies on introducing gluten to children, particularly those at risk for celiac disease.

One international team found high gluten intake before age 2 increases the risk in children who are genetically predisposed. The study drew from 15 years of follow-up data on 48,000 newborn Swedish children. In Sweden children traditionally eat more cereals than those in other European countries or the United States.

Parents of children in the study reported the children’s daily food consumption up to 24 months of age. From this group, researchers identified 146 children diagnosed with celiac disease by intestinal biopsy. Each of these individuals were matched and compared with three children (a total of 436) of the same age, sex and genetic type who did not acquire the disease.

Comparing diets, the study found no difference based on how long breastfeeding lasted or at what age gluten was first introduced to the child. However children who ate more than 5 grams of gluten per day were more likely to develop celiac disease than those who ate less than 3.4 grams per day.

This doesn’t prove eating too much gluten actually triggers celiac disease. However the authors suggest their findings “may have consequence for future infant feeding recommendations.” Further research in other countries is needed to confirm these findings.


Aronsson CA, Lee H-L, Koletsko S, Uusitalo U, Yang J, Virtanen SM, Liu E, Lernmark Å, Norris JM, Agardh D and the TEDDY Study Group, “Effects of gluten intake on risk of celiac disease: a case-control study on a Swedish birth cohort,” Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Nov 25 2015; doi:10.1016/j.cgh.2015.09.030 [Epub ahead of print].

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