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Breast-Feeding May Protect Against Celiac Disease

Increased duration of breast-feeding associated with lower risk of gluten intolerance

FRIDAY, Nov. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Breast-feeding may protect children against the development of celiac disease, according to a study published online Nov. 15 in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Anthony Kwaku Akobeng, M.D., of the Central Manchester and Manchester Children's University Hospitals in the United Kingdom, and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of six observational studies covering over 1,000 children with celiac disease and almost 3,500 healthy children to analyze the association between the condition and breast-feeding.

Except for one small study, all studies showed an association between increased duration of breast-feeding and decreased risk of developing celiac disease. In infants who were breast-feeding at the time foods containing gluten were introduced, there was a 52% lower risk of developing celiac disease compared with infants who were not breast-feeding at that time.

The authors put forward various mechanisms by which breast milk may confer protection against celiac disease, including that human milk IgA antibodies may diminish immune response to ingested gluten.

"The actual mechanism through which breast milk protects against the development of celiac disease is unclear. It could be that continuing breast-feeding at the time of weaning limits the amount of gluten that the child receives.... Another mechanism through which breast milk could protect against celiac disease is by preventing gastrointestinal infections in the infant," the authors write.

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