If babies are given Weetabix from four months of age, it may prevent them from developing an allergy to wheat.
A study conducted by King’s College London found that introducing high doses of gluten early on can protect against celiac disease.
However, experts have warned that more studies are needed before changes are made to national recommendations on weaning.
The NHS currently recommends that babies be weaned from around six months of age.
Lead author Gideon Lack, Professor of Child Allergies at King’s College London and Head of Child Allergy Service at Evelina London Children’s Hospital, said, “This is the first study to show that significant amounts of wheat are included in a baby’s diet early before the age of six months can prevent celiac disease from developing.
“This strategy can also have implications for other autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes.”
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which eating gluten – found in foods like bread, pasta, cereals, and cookies – causes the body’s immune system to attack its own tissues.
Common symptoms include abdominal pain, gas, wind, constipation, and indigestion.
Those affected need to exclude gluten from their diet and there are currently no strategies in place to prevent the disease from developing.
The author Dr. Kirsty Logan, Child Allergy Researcher at King’s College London, said, “The early adoption of gluten and its role in the prevention of celiac disease should be further explored, with the results of the EAT study as the basis for larger clinical trials to answer them Definitely a question. “
What the study found
The researchers examined data from 1,004 adolescents who had been randomly divided into two groups.
The 516 children in one group were exclusively breastfed up to around six months of age, while the 488 children in the other group ate allergenic foods (peanut, sesame, wheat, eggs, cod, and cow’s milk) as well as breast milk from around four months old .
The results showed that by the age of three, seven of the children in the breast-milk-only group had developed celiac disease compared to none in the wheat-given group.
The study, known as the Inquiring About Tolerance (EAT) study, was published in the journal JAMA Paediatrics and included experts from King’s College London, the NHS Foundation Trust of Guy and St. Thomas, St. George’s, the University of London and the Benaroya Research Institute in Seattle.
For the EAT study, babies given wheat were given 4 g of wheat protein every week from the age of four months.
This came in the form of two wheat-based grain cookies like Weetabix.
The entire group was tested for anti-transglutaminase antibodies, an indicator of celiac disease, at the age of three.
Those with elevated antibody levels were referred by a specialist for further evaluation.