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Adv Exp Med Biol. 2000;478:139-49.

Does breast-feeding affect the risk for coeliac disease?

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  • 1Department of Clinical Science, Paediatrics, UmeĆ„ University, Sweden.


Coeliac disease, or permanent gluten sensitive enteropathy, has emerged as a widespread health problem. It is considered an immunological disease, possibly of autoimmune type, albeit strictly dependent on the presence in the diet of wheat gluten and similar proteins from rye and barley. There are reasons to believe that the aetiology of coeliac disease is multifactorial, i.e. that other environmental exposures than the mere presence in the diet of gluten affect the disease process. Our studies have shown that prolonged breast-feeding, or perhaps even more important, ongoing breast-feeding during the period when gluten-containing foods are introduced into the diet, reduce the risk for coeliac disease. The amount of gluten consumed is also of importance in as much as larger amounts of gluten-containing foods increase the risk for coeliac disease, while it still is uncertain if the age for introducing gluten into the diet of infants is important. Thus, a challenging possibility, that need to be further explored, is if the coeliac enteropathy can be postponed, or possibly even prevented for the entire life span, by favourable dietary habits early in life.

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