Researchers from the University of Colorado have found that for children who are at risk for developing celiac disease, the best time to introduce food that contains gluten into their diets is between 4 and 6 months of age.
People who live with celiac disease cannot tolerate foods with gluten, a type of protein. Damage to the small intestine causes an impaired absorption of nutrients that are critical for good health. Symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea and weight loss. The Canadian Celiac Association estimates that this disease affects 1 in 200 Canadians.
In the study, researchers assessed the occurrence of celiac disease in over 1500 children who had a family history of celiac disease. All of the participants were followed for nearly five years. During the follow up period, 51 children developed the disease. Compared with children who were exposed to gluten between 4 and 6 months, those children who were exposed earlier were up to 23 times more likely to develop celiac disease. Researchers also found that introducing gluten-containing foods after 6 months of age quadrupled the risk of developing the disease.
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