Good News for Fans of Gluten

EW Lopes et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2022; 20: 303-313.Open Access: Dietary Gluten Intake Is Not Associated With Risk of Inflammatory Bowel Disease in US Adults Without Celiac Disease

Key finding: In 3 large adult US prospective cohorts (n=208,280), gluten intake was not associated with risk of CD or UC in 5,115,265 person-years of follow-up evaluation.

My take (from authors): These ” findings are reassuring at a time when consumption of gluten has been increasingly perceived as a trigger for chronic gastrointestinal diseases.”

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Gluten Intake and Development of Celiac Disease -Two Studies

  • NA Lund-Blix et al. Am J Gastroenterol 2019; 114: 1299-1306.
  • K Marild et al. Am J Gastroenterol 2019; 114: 1307-14.

Thanks to Ben Gold for these references.

In the first study, the authors used an observational prospective nationwide cohort study, the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa) with 67,608 children born between 2000-2009 and with a mean followup of 11.5 years.

Key findings:

  • Celiac disease (CD) was diagnosed in 738 children (1.1%)
  • The adjusted relative risk of CD was 1.1 per standard deviation increase in daily gluten amount at age 18 months.
  • Compared to children in the lowest quartile of gluten ingestion, those in the upper quartile had an adjusted relative risk of 1.29.
  • Timing of gluten introduction, ≥6 months or before 4 months, was also an independent risk factor for CD. In those before 4 months the aRR was 1.45 and for those ≥6 months the aRR was 1.34

In the second study, the authors used the prospective Diabetes Autoimmunity Study in the Young cohort with 1875 at-risk children.

Key findings:

  • Children in the highest tertile of gluten intake between ages of 1 and 2 had a 2-fold greater hazard of developing CD autoimmunity (positive tTG antibodies) (aHR 2.17) than those in the lowest tertile.
  • The risk of CDA increased by 5% per daily gram increase in gluten intake in 1 year olds.

My take: Taken together, these studies indicate that higher gluten exposure (between 1-2 years) is associated with a modestly-higher risk of CD; in addition, early (<4 months) and late exposure (>6 months) may increase the risk as well.

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Spoiler alert: This case study by A Fasano et al. NEJM 2020; 382: 180-9. describes a presentation of celiac disease and Addision’s disease. I recently had a teenager present with similar symptoms who had Addison’s alone (clues were fatigue, low sodium and hyperpigmentation)

Do You Need Separate Cookware for Celiac Disease?

Maybe.  A recent abstract at 2019 NASPGHAN meeting addressing this issue was highlighted in Gastroenterology and Endoscopy News.

Link: Recommendations for Children With Celiac Disease Need Update

An excerpt:

In two related experiments, researchers from the celiac disease program at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington D.C., looked at whether, and how much, gluten could be transferred from contaminated cafeteria foods and school supplies to children’s hands, work tables and gluten-free food (abstract 656). The researchers also analyzed how effective different washing methods were at removing gluten contamination…

Ms. Weisbrod said she and her colleagues were surprised that using a shared toaster for both gluten-free and gluten-containing bread transferred minimal gluten (<5 parts per million [ppm] in most samples), as did playing with Play-Doh (median, 1.25 ppm). Both exposures were well below the 20-ppm threshold the FDA uses to consider an item gluten-free.

My take: The NASPGHAN meeting also featured a lecture by Alessio Fasano indicating that ~30%of patients with celiac disease had persistent disease due to poor adherence with a gluten-free diet and about 10% of patients with celiac disease are exquisitely sensitive to gluten.  So, while this small study indicates that gluten exposure may be lower than gluten threshold in many cases when sharing toasters, etc, I think more attention should be directed at strict gluten avoidance rather than trying to discern if some level of cross contamination may be acceptable.

Addendum: Cross-contamination results were later published with regard to three items -cooking pasta, use of toaster, and slicing a cupcake: Gastroenterol 20202; 158: 273-5.  The associated editorial (page 51) the authors state that they do not believe that concern about gluten cross-contact is overblown and state findings should be cautiously interpreted in light of small sample size and lack of investigator blinding.

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P’tit Train du Nord Linear Park (near Montreal) -124 Miles


Goldilocks and Gluten

A recent study (CA Aronsson et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2016; 14: 403-09, editorial 410-12) suggests that how much gluten is given may be another important factor rather than looking at the timing with regard to the development of celiac disease (CD).

In this 1-to-3 nested case-control study with 146 cases of CD and 436 controls, the authors indicate that a larger intake of gluten than controls increased the likelihood of celiac disease.  Specifically, children receiving large amounts of gluten (>5 g/day) during their first 24 months had a 2.6-fold increased risk of CD compared to those who consumed lower quantities.

The associated editorial notes that the total amount of gluten intake was only marginally increased in CD cases versus all control patients (OR 1.05) and that the association was decreased when individuals with first-degree relatives with CD were excluded.  In addition, this high consumption increased the risk after the first 2 years of life, rather than during this period of high consumption.

Does this make sense? Not to me.  These findings need to be replicated in other studies to determine if gluten exposure is like Goldilocks: too little, too much –>just right.

My take: For now, I think sticking with the timing of gluten exposure (recommended at 4-6 months) rather than the quantity is worthwhile.

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