Breast fed infants are better nourished and healthier than those that are not. A new study says that breastfeeding may protect children against gluten intolerance, known as celiac disease"
CD, also known as celiac sprue, gluten-sensitive enteropathy, non-tropical sprue, among others, is believed to result from the activation of both a cell-mediated (T-cell) and humoural (B-cell) immune response upon exposure to glutens (prolamins and glutenins) found in wheat, barley, rye, and oats, in a genetically susceptible person, according to the AHRQ.
For the study, researchers reviewed six out of 15 studies published between 1996 and 2004. The six selected studies matched the criteria set by the researchers.
The analysis of more than 900 children with CD and almost 3,500 healthy children showed the duration of breastfeeding was inversely associated with the risk of gluten intolerance. The longer a child was breastfed; the lower was his risk of the condition.
The risk for those infants who were breastfed when introduced to gluten-containing foods was 52 percent lower than for those who were not breastfed.
The researchers did not know whether the protective effect was permanent or not. Nor could they explain how breastfeeding protected children against gluten intolerance.
However, authors of the study suggested that breastfeeding may reduce the exposure of infants to gluten during weaning. Another possibility is that breastfeeding might cut gastrointestinal infections which would otherwise weaken the lining of the bowel inducing gluten intolerance.
The prevalence of CD in Celtic populations is highest, estimated at 1:300 to 1:122. The prevalence of CD in North America has been estimated to be 1:3000, but a recent American study found the prevalence was 1:105 among the general not-at-risk population compared with 1:22 among the at-risk groups such as first-degree relatives of CD patients, according to the AHRQ.
CD has been strongly associated with gastrointestinal lymphoma. Patients with CD are four to 40 times more likely to develop gastrointestinal lymphoma and 11 to 70 times more likely to die of the disease.
CD can affect persons of many ethnic backgrounds, but appears to rarely affect persons of purely Chinese, Japanese, or Afro-Caribbean descent.
The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months; breastfeeding should be supported for the first year or longer if both the mother and child desire.
Breastfeeding has been known to offer a host of benefits to the child and mother. Children who are breastfed have a lower incidence and severity of conditions such as diarrhoea, bacterial meningitis, and ear infections. Breastfeeding may also protect against sudden infant death syndrome, obesity, diabetes, and asthma.
For the mothers, breastfeeding may reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, breast cancer, hip fractures and osteoporosis in the postmenopausal period.
Source: Disease in Childhood.