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Does Exclusive Breast Feeding Increase Celiac Risk?

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1/17/2011

UPDATE! This article has caused a stir among patients and providers, many noting that the study's authors disclosed financial ties to companies that manufacture infant formulas and baby food. The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness asked Scientific/Medical Advisory Board Member Nancy Patin Falini, MA, RD, LDN, to give her thoughts on the article and its reference to celiac disease. Here's what she said:

“It’s encouraging to see that the significance of celiac disease and potential factors that may contribute or prevent its manifestation have become so evident in diverse scientific literature. While the exact role of breastfeeding and timing of solids, particularly gluten is not clear, it seems that breastfeeding for at least 6 months (and longer if possible) with the introduction of solids involving a small amount of gluten between 4 and 6 months of age is reasonable in infants at risk for celiac disease.”

Original post: Experts agree that breastfeeding is best for babies, but debate exists over the best time to introduce solid foods. According to a new article, it may be sooner than you think.

Published in the British Medical Journal last week, the article argues that introducing solid foods between 3-6 months could help prevent food allergies and even celiac disease. The advice, which comes from a group of pediatric experts, counters World Health Organization recommendations that mothers rely exclusively on breast milk until the child reaches 6 months of age.

The experts specifically point to celiac disease as a risk that may increase when solid foods are introduced before 3 months or after 6 months. According to the article, celiac disease cases in Sweden increased when parents were advised to wait to introduce gluten after 6 months of age. When the recommendation was changed to introduce solid foods after 3 months, the incidence of celiac disease decreased.

The experts maintained that exclusive breast feeding is still beneficial in developing countries, where the risk of infection is high. But in developed countries where such risks are low, introducing solid foods at 3-4 months instead of waiting the full 6 months may be a better option, the experts advised.

 

To learn more, read about this study in the Los Angeles Times or access the full article.

 

 

Note: NFCA maintains the position that views and information presented on articles and websites we link to are those of the authors, and not necessarily those of NFCA.
 

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