Two studies have just been published in NEJM (Oct. 2014) that show the timing of gluten introduction (by 6 months or waiting until a year of age) makes no difference in the rate of celiac disease for those with a first-degree relative with celiac disease.
My take home message is this: For those of you with a family history of celiac disease (a severe gluten-caused intestinal disorder) your risk of getting ill with celiac disease if you eat gluten (regardless of when you start) is about 5-12% by age 2-3 years, and 16-24% by 10 years age. If you never eat gluten guess what your rate of celiac disease is? ZERO!
I ask you this: Is there any reason on earth for those with a family history of celiac disease to eat gluten? It is a clear NO if you ask me. Why would you risk it knowing you have a 1/4 to 1/6 chance of destroying your GI track and setting yourself up for a host of immune challenges and problems.
The slightly more nuanced question is for the rest of us who don’t have a family history of celiac disease. Should we be eating gluten? From my experience of growing gluten sensitivity, and increasing autoimmune disorders, eczema and neurologically based issues from anxiety to ADHD and autism that sometimes resolve with removal of gluten, my answer is an absolute NO! You are playing Russian Roulette with your health when you eat gluten. There are wonderful and safe alternatives for your starches and grains; quinoa, rice, sweet potatoes, potatoes. Of course always choose organic and limit your carbohydrates from grains and potatoes if you are trying to loose weight or suffer from inflammatory mediated disorders.
In the article “Introduction of gluten, HLA status, and the risk of celiac disease in children”, (which you can read here… ) 832 newborns with first-degree relatives with celiac were given gluten at either 6 months (group A) or 12 months (group B), and HLA genotypes and serological testing done at 15, 24, and 36 months and again at 5, 8 , and 10 years with intestinal biopsies done for those with positive serology.
AGE (yrs) % autoimmunity % overt celiac disease
2 (Grp A) 16% 12%
(Grp B) 7% 5%
5 (A) 21% 16%
(B) 20% 16%
At age 10, those who had previously been identified as high risk by HLA typing had auto-immunity level of 38%, and 26% had celiac disease! The study did not find breast feeding to be protective, although later introduction of gluten did delay the onset of celiac disease. I would add that not giving gluten at all would delay the disease forever!
In the study “Randomized feeding intervention in infants at high risk for celiac disease”, (you can read this study here… ) high risk infants (determined to have either HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8 and a first degree relative with celiac) were given gluten at 16-24 weeks or placebo to see if early introduction of gluten might be protective. 77 of 944 children enrolled had biopsy confirmed celiac disease.
RESULTS at AGE 3
Gluten group Placebo Group
Incidence of celiac 5.9% 4.5%
Elevated antibodies 7.0% 5.7%
Clearly, the introduction of small amounts of gluten early in life (4-6 months) did not reduce the rate of celiac by age 3. All these children ultimately ate gluten as far as I can tell, so the rate of celiac disease could have been reduced to zero, if gluten was avoided all together.
Since gluten has no nutritional value, and is absolutely not a required nutrient for humans, it is time we open our eyes to the damage this protein is causing and stop this madness. Due to the convenience of gluten for fast foods and packaged foods, there will be great resistance from the food industry that profits from your misery.