Systematic review: early infant feeding and the prevention of coeliac disease

Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2012 Oct;36(7):607-18. doi: 10.1111/apt.12023. Epub 2012 Aug 21.


Background: PREVENTCD, Prevent Coeliac Disease, is an international project investigating the hypothesis of possible induction of tolerance to gluten in genetically predisposed children through introducing small quantities of gluten during the period of breastfeeding.

Aim: To summarise current knowledge on the possible relationship between early feeding practices and the risk of coeliac disease (CD).

Methods: The Cochrane Library, MEDLINE, and EMBASE databases were searched in May 2011, and the search was updated in January 2012, and again in July 2012.

Results: Breastfeeding (BF) and CD: some studies show a protective effect of BF, while others show no effect. No studies have shown a long-term preventive effect. BF at the time of gluten introduction and CD: Results from a meta-analysis of five observational case-control studies suggest that BF at gluten introduction is associated with a lower risk of CD compared with formula feeding. It is unclear whether BF provides a permanent protection or only delays the onset of CD. Timing of gluten introduction: The data suggest that both early (≤4 months) and late (≥7 months) introduction of gluten may increase the risk of CD. Amount of gluten at weaning (and later) and CD: One incident case-referent study documented that the introduction of gluten in large amounts compared with small or medium amounts increased the risk of CD.

Conclusions: In the absence of clear evidence, in order to decrease the risk of later coeliac disease, it is reasonable to avoid both early (<4 months) and late (≥7 months) introduction of gluten, and to introduce gluten while the infant is still being breastfed. Future studies may clarify the remaining uncertainties.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding / methods*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Celiac Disease / etiology
  • Celiac Disease / physiopathology
  • Celiac Disease / prevention & control*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Glutens / administration & dosage
  • Glutens / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Weaning


  • Glutens