The team investigated whether breast-feeding and the mode of introducing dietary gluten influence the risk of celiac disease in childhood.
They reported their results in the May issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
In the study of Swedish children, a total of 627 individuals with celiac disease and 1254 matched controls were included.
Of these, 78% of the matched sets were included in the final analyses.
A questionnaire was used to assess patterns of food introduction to infants.
| Further reduction in celiac disease risk when breast-feeding continued after gluten introduction.
| American Journal of Clinical Nutrition |
The researchers built models, based on current epidemiologic and immunologic knowledge of celiac disease, to study the potential influence of dietary patterns on disease risk.
The risk of celiac disease was found to be reduced in children aged less than 2 years, if they were still being breast-fed when dietary gluten was introduced (adjusted odds ratio (OR): 0.59).
This effect was even more pronounced in infants who continued to be breast-fed after dietary gluten was introduced (OR: 0.36).
The risk was greater when gluten was introduced in the diet in large amounts (OR: 1.5), than when introduced in small or medium amounts.
In older children, these risk factors were of no or only of minor importance.
Anneli Ivarsson, of the Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden, concluded on behalf of fellow colleagues, "The gradual introduction of gluten-containing foods into the diet of infants, while they are still being breast-fed, reduces the risk of celiac disease in early childhood.
"It probably also reduces the risk during the subsequent childhood period."