Infant feeding and risk of developing celiac disease: a systematic review

BMJ Open. 2016 Jan 25;6(1):e009163. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2015-009163.


Objective: To review the evidence for the association of breast feeding, breastfeeding duration or the timing of gluten introduction and the later development of celiac disease (CD).

Design: Systematic review.

Methods: We searched MEDLINE, via PubMed, EMBASE and Web of Science, for studies published up to 31 August 2015 investigating the association of breastfeeding duration, breast feeding at the moment of gluten introduction or the timing of gluten introduction and the later development of CD. Prospective studies had to enrol infants/children at high risk of CD. For retrospective studies, participants had to be children or adults with CD. The paper quality was assessed by means of a GRADE score and the bias risk was assessed by the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale (for observational cohort studies) and Cochrane Collaboration's tool (for randomised trials).

Results: Out of 149 retrieved papers, 48 were considered in depth and 16 were included in this review (9 were prospective and 2 were interventional). We found that neither duration of breastfeeding nor breastfeeding at time of gluten introduction nor the delayed introduction of gluten during weaning were effective in preventing later development of CD.

Conclusions: Currently, there is no evidence on the optimal breastfeeding duration or the effects of avoiding early (<4 months of age) or late (≥ 6 or even at 12 months) gluten introduction in children at risk of CD. Accordingly, no specific general recommendations about gluten introduction or optimal breastfeeding duration can be presently provided on evidence-based criteria in order to prevent CD.

Keywords: breastfeeding; celiac disease; gluten.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding*
  • Celiac Disease / epidemiology
  • Celiac Disease / prevention & control*
  • Glutens / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Weaning


  • Glutens

Associated data

  • Dryad/10.5061/dryad.72T83