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 disease.
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 time.
“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.