Study Proves Vaccinations Not Linked To Celiac Disease in Sweden

In Sweden, between 1984 and 1996, there was an increase in Celiac Disease amongst Swedish babies, causing an epidemic. After 1996 record show that the surge decreases and leaves people wondering what caused the surge to begin with. Normally a gene makes people susceptible to celiac disease, but researchers are also looking into environmental factors that influence the development of the disorder.  

At first people suspected vaccines to be the reason for the increase of the disease, so a team of Swedish researchers from Umeå University and the National Swedish Childhood Celiac Disease Register looked at medical records to dive into this theory. The new study, reported in the journal Pediatrics, claims vaccinations are not linked to the Swedish epidemic.

Instead the researchers found that changes in Sweden's national vaccine program did not correlate with the timing of the celiac disease epidemic. In fact, the introduction of pertussis vaccination (against whooping cough) corresponded to a decline in celiac. Further more, when the researchers compared children with celiac against kids without it, they found no link between vaccination and the risk of having the disorder.

Due to this study we now know that childhood vaccinations do not appear to be risk factors for celiac disease. However, reasons for the overall increase in celiac in Sweden are still not clear. In the U.S., there's been no epidemic of celiac among babies.

As reported and interviewed in Dr. Joseph A. Murray, who directs the celiac disease program at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, claims that “It's thought that infant feeding may go far in explaining Sweden's epidemic. For a time, it became popular for parents to use "follow-on" formulas that contained milk and a large amount of wheat, to wean babies from regular infant formula.”

Murray noted that England and Ireland had spikes in early-life celiac disease back in the late-1960s to 1970s. That seemed to be related to parents' habit of giving babies cereal very early, he said; after health campaigns telling parents to hold off on cereal until the age of five to six months, early celiac cases declined.

Murray also notes that, “The reasons for the overall increase in celiac are not clear, but factors related to gluten must be involved. People may, for example, be eating more gluten now than they used to. And in someone with a genetic predisposition, that could tip them toward an abnormal immune system reaction. It's also possible that changes in the processing of gluten-rich foods could have a role.”

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