Celiac disease, also called gluten-sensitive enteropathy (a disease of the intestinal tract), is characterized by chronic inflammation in the small intestine, induced by gluten (a protein substance) present in wheat, rye, or barley, according to background information in the article. The classic form of celiac disease typically presents in early childhood with abdominal pain and diarrhea, malabsorption, and nutrient deficiencies. Most patients with celiac disease carry the gene HLA-DRB1*03 (usually associated with HLA-DQ2) or HLA-DRB1*04 (associated with HLA-DQ8). These gene variations also confer increased risk for type 1 diabetes; thus, individuals with type 1 diabetes and their first-degree relatives have increased risk of celiac disease. However, few genetically susceptible individuals develop celiac disease, even though virtually all individuals in wheat-consuming populations are exposed to gluten. This suggests that additional factors play a role in disease risk.
Jill M. Norris, M.P.H., Ph.D., of the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center, and colleagues investigated whether there was an association between timing of exposure to cereals and subsequent development of celiac disease autoimmunity (CDA) in children with a genetic predisposition for celiac disease. The study was conducted from 1994-2004 with 1,560 children at increased risk for celiac disease or type 1 diabetes, as defined by possession of either HLA-DR3 or DR4 gene variations, or having a first-degree relative with type 1 diabetes. The average follow-up was 4.8 years.
Fifty-one children developed CDA. The researchers found that findings adjusted for HLA-DR3 status indicated that children exposed to foods containing wheat, barley, or ry
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