Timing of when gluten is introduced to infants does not appear to influence the development of celiac disease, recent research reveals.
The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, was conducted over a decade by Italian and American researchers across 20 sites in Italy. It involved 707 children with a mother, father or sibling with celiac disease. As infants, one at-risk group of the children was introduced to gluten at six months while another group first tried gluten at 12 months.
By delaying the introduction of gluten, the researchers theorized that the immune system might have time to mature and tolerate more new substances, including gluten.
But the data revealed that when you are introduced to gluten has little to do with the development of celiac disease. Of far greater importance are genes that indicate risk for the disease.
Dr. Alessio Fasano, a study co-author and the director for the Center for Celiac Research at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, told Allergic Living he was taken aback by the results.
Although this was not the outcome the research team expected, Fasano says the findings are instructive. “We learn a lot even when a study doesn’t turn out with positive results. In this case, we know now what really is not going to help.”