More people are learning about celiac disease. Researchers have been trying to determine what makes a person more likely to develop the condition.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which a person's immune system attacks ingested gluten, which results in an allergic-like reaction.
Gluten is a protein found in a wide range of foods, including wheat, flour and yeast products such as breads and pastas.
A recent study found that children who first had gluten when they are older than 6 months were a little more likely to develop celiac disease.
The study, led by Ketil Størdal, MD, PhD, of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Oslo, looked at whether introducing gluten products earlier or later to babies affected their risk of celiac disease.
The researchers followed 82,167 Norwegian children to learn when they first ate a product with gluten and how many of them developed celiac disease.
The researchers collected information on which age the children were when they first had gluten, from 0 to 6 months old.
Information on how long the children were breastfed — up to 18 months — was also collected.
Overall, 324 of the children (0.4 percent) developed celiac disease.
Approximately 8 percent of the children first had food with gluten in it when they were 4 months old or younger.
Further, 45 percent of the babies first had a gluten product between 5 and 6 months of age, and 47 percent first had gluten after turning 6 months old.
In addition, approximately 78 percent of the babies were still being breastfed at 6 months old.
Among babies who first had gluten when they were 5 to 6 months old, 37 out of every 10,000 babies developed celiac disease.
Additionally, 42 out of every 10,000 babies who first had gluten after 6 months old or who first had it at 4 months or younger developed celiac disease.
The researchers then adjusted their calculations to account for the children's age, sex, length of time breastfeeding and mother's celiac disease status (if any).
After these adjustments, the researchers found that babies who first ate a product with gluten after 6 months of age had 27 percent greater odds of developing celiac disease.
In addition, babies who breastfed for longer than one year had about 49 percent greater odds of developing celiac disease.
The study was published October 7 in the journal Pediatrics. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.
The research was funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education and Research, the National Institutes of Health and the Norwegian Research Council.