These Two Factors May Explain Which Kids Develop Celiac Disease

A new Swedish study looks at how the season and region of birth may impact a child's chances of being diagnosed with celiac disease.
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There's not much to love about having a winter baby. You have to bundle her up like a snowman to go anywhere, and most of the time, you don't, over fears of her catching a cold. But new research points to a potential benefit of being born in the winter months: a lower chance of developing celiac disease.

For the study, which is published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, Swedish researchers looked at an astonishing 2 million kids over the course of 15 years. They found that children who were born in the spring, summer, and autumn—or basically March through November—had a 10 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with the autoimmune disorder than those born December through February.

It's important to note that exactly where in Sweden babies were born seemed to matter. One's risk for being diagnosed with celiac disease was highest among children born in the south, where sunlight in spring and summer can be intense, versus those who were born in the north, which has colder springs and shorter summers. Those results suggest that exposure to vitamin D may play a role in how likely it is a child will develop celiac disease.

What year a child was born also impacted results, as did gender; girls were more likely than boys to be celiacs.

Researchers caution their study is only observational, so the results should not be taken as fact. Still, they offer a possible explanation for the findings, saying, "One hypothesis for increased [celiac disease] risk and spring/summer birth is that those infants are more likely to be weaned and introduced to gluten during autumn/winter, a time characterised by exposure to seasonal viral infections." They add, "A remaining possible link to sunlight and vitamin D is that pregnant women who give birth in spring have the lowest levels of vitamin D during late gestation when important programming and development of the fetal immune system takes place."

The bottom line: You can't always control when your baby is born, so the best thing you can do is focus on having a healthy pregnancy, and newborn.

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.

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