Researchers in Sweden have released the results of an extensive study debunking the long held belief that early weaning is the cause of celiac disease. Instead of ending breastfeeding early, what did the study indicate was the actual trigger for celiac disease?
For years, there was a belief that weening a child from breastmilk early was the cause of celiac disease. Turns out, this is not the case. A recent Swedish study has revealed that the amount of gluten consumed is more apt to cause celiac disease than weening early or giving children gluten at an early age.
Dietician and doctoral student Andrén Aronson of Lund University in Sweden released a statement based on her thesis that it was the amount of gluten given to a child that triggers the disease.
“Our findings indicate that the amount of gluten triggers the disease.”
In addition, the study revealed that it does not matter what age a child is given gluten. The study discovered that children between the ages of nine and twelve months are more apt to develop celiac disease if given a higher amount of gluten. A child under the age of two given more than 5g of gluten was more likely to develop celiac disease than one that was given a smaller amount of gluten.
“The timing of the introduction of gluten, on the other hand, does not seem to be of great significance.”
The Local Sweden, reported that the study, entitled the Teddy project, followed 8,700 children in Sweden, Finland, Germany and the United States. In the United States, about one percent of all people have celiac disease, with an estimated two to three million people that have gone undiagnosed. In Sweden, that number jumps to between two and three percent of the entire population that has celiac disease. It is not surprising that there is such an interest in the Nordic country in uncovering the cause of celiac disease.
What is celiac disease? According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, celiac is an autoimmune disorder that affects about 1 in 100 people worldwide.
“Celiac disease is a serious genetic autoimmune disorder where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine.”
Those who have celiac disease cannot tolerate the protein gluten. What happens when a person with the disease eats gluten, and where is the protein found?
“When people with celiac disease eat gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley), their body mounts an immune response that attacks the small intestine.”
This incurable disease requires patients to eat gluten-free for the rest of their lives. Found in items from bread to toothpaste, if anyone with celiac consumes gluten, this could become the cause for additional illness, including intestinal lymphoma. Thus, the need for those with celiac disease to adhere to a strict gluten free diet is mandatory.
This is not to be mistaken for the gluten-free bandwagon that has a lot of people – from celebrities to diet books authors – claiming that bread and pasta will make them healthier. For those with celiac disease, consuming even a small bit of gluten is very serious. For anyone else, consuming any amount of gluten does not have the same consequences.
Equipped with this new information, Aronson intends on furthering her study to include other countries. She is focused on trying to uncover why people in Sweden have celiac disease at a much higher rate than in other countries. She is also going to explore how beneficial bacteria, found in such food as Greek yogurt, may play a part in preventing celiac disease.
If you have a baby, have you avoided weaning your baby early in fear of celiac disease? Share your story below!
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