November 21, 2005

Breast-feeding reduces risk of celiac disease

By David Douglas

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - It appears that breast-feeding
lowers the risk of developing celiac disease, a common
gastrointestinal problem caused by intolerance to a grain
protein called gluten, according to a report in the Archives of
Disease in Childhood.

As lead investigator Dr. Tony Akobeng told Reuters Health,
"breast-feeding at the time of solid food introduction
significantly reduces the risk of celiac disease." Moreover,
"the longer a baby is breast-fed, the more likely (the child)
will not develop symptoms of celiac disease."

Akobeng of Central Manchester and Manchester Children's
University Hospitals in the UK and colleagues came to this
conclusion after a review of six studies, involving more than
1,100 individuals with celiac disease and almost 3500
comparison subjects.

With the exception of one small study involving just 8
cases and 73 controls, all of the others found an association
between increasing duration of breast-feeding and a decreased
risk of celiac disease.

Compared with infants who were not breast-fed at the time
of gluten introduction, breast-fed infants were 52-percent less
likely to develop celiac disease.

It is not known how this protection is achieved, according
to the investigators. It may simply be that breast-feeding
during weaning leads to less gluten exposure. Breast-feeding
could also reduce intestinal infection that might reduce the
risk of celiac disease in susceptible infants.

The researchers also note that it is not clear whether
breast-feeding "delays the onset of symptoms or provides a
permanent protection against the disease."

SOURCE: Archives of Disease in Childhood, November 21,