Gluten for a Baby? A Bad Idea, say the Studies

Gluten for a baby

For a baby, gluten is recommended to be added to the diet in most western countries at the age of 4 to 6 months. This recommendation is based on the thought that the babies would get used to gluten and would not get a celiac disease or other gluten intolerance conditions. Now many new studies show that the aforementioned recommendation may result in a completely opposite outcome.

GLUTEN studies in the New England Journal of Medicine

Two high-quality studies were published in October 2014 in the New England Journal of medicine. In the first study 944 children were fed either placebo or gluten at the age of 4 to 6 months. When the kids from the study turned three years old, 5,9% of the kids that were fed gluten had developed gluten intolerance. At the same time, only 4,5% of the kids to whose diets gluten was introduced at a later age had developed a gluten intolerance disease.

In the second study the results were even more clearly against an early introduction of gluten. 832 babies whose families had a history with celiac disease were divided into two groups. For the diet of the first group of infants, gluten was introduced at the age of 6 months. The second group of kids started eating gluten at the age of 12 months. When the kids in the study were two years old, 12% of the early gluten introduction group had developed gluten intolerance. Meanwhile, 5% of the children who started eating gluten later, at 12 months of age, had developed gluten intolerance. So the risk of getting a gluten intolerance was a stunning 140% greater when gluten was introduced at an early age for a baby.

In regards to these two studies, it has to be noted that the babies, who were observed had a genetic susceptibility to celiac disease. It is possible that the early gluten exposure only sped up the onset of gluten intolerances. To get a definitive answer as to whether early gluten feeding increases the risk for gluten diseases, similar studies will have to be performed on kids without genetic factors promoting gluten intolerances.

Observational study from northern Europe and the USA

A recent statistical study compared gluten feeding to infants and the prevalence of gluten intolerance. It was found that gluten was introduced to a baby’s diet earliest in Sweden, at the age of 22 weeks on the average. And at the latest in the USA and Germany at the average age of 30 weeks. The scientists found that Sweden, in where gluten feeding was started the earliest also had the most incidences of gluten intolerance among children.

This kind of statistical observational study is not proof of cause and effect. But combined with the earlier mentioned randomized studies, which do prove cause and effect, it seems that the risk for gluten intolerance conditions might increase with early gluten feeding to babies.

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