January 20, 2006

Breastfeeding may reduce risk of celiac disease

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Sufferers from celiac disease
can't tolerate wheat and gluten in their diet, but people who
were breastfed as babies seem to be less likely to develop the
condition, a UK study shows.

Dr. A. K. Akobeng, of Booth Hall Children's Hospital,
Manchester, and colleague note in the Archives of Diseases in
Childhood that "recent observational studies suggest that
breastfeeding may prevent the development of celiac disease."

In an analysis of available evidence, the researchers
reviewed six studies published between 1966 and 2004 that
examined the relationship between breastfeeding and celiac

An association between increasing duration of breastfeeding
and a decreased risk of celiac disease was seen in all of the
studies except one small one.

The results of the analysis also demonstrated a 52 percent
lower risk of celiac disease among people who were being
breastfed at the time when gluten was introduced into their
diet, compared with those who were not breast feeding at this

"It could be that continuing breast feeding at the time of
weaning limits the amount of gluten that the child receives,
thereby decreasing the chances of the child developing symptoms
of celiac disease," Akobeng and colleagues suggest.

"Another mechanism through which breast milk could protect
against celiac disease is by preventing gastrointestinal
infections in the infant," the investigators add.

SOURCE: Archives of Diseases in Childhood, January 2006.