Coeliac disease and gluten avoidance in New Zealand children

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Although gluten avoidance is thought to be common among New Zealanders, the prevalence of gluten avoidance and of actual coeliac disease (CD) in children is uncertain. Our aims were: (1) to determine the prevalence of doctor-diagnosed CD and of gluten avoidance in New Zealand children; and (2) among children without CD, to identify independent predictors of gluten avoidance.


The New Zealand Asthma and Allergy Cohort Study has detailed information on participants' demographic, pregnancy-related and neonatal factors. The authors surveyed parents regarding their child's history of lactose intolerance and gluten-related issues (eg, gluten avoidance, history of wheat or gluten allergy in first degree relatives, testing and doctor diagnosis of CD). After excluding children with doctor-diagnosed CD, the authors identified independent predictors of gluten avoidance.


Among 916 children, most (78%) were of European ethnicity. The authors identified nine (1.0%, 95% CI 0.5% to 1.9%) who had doctor-diagnosed CD, while 48 (5.2%, 95% CI 4.0% to 6.9%) avoided gluten. Among children without diagnosed CD, significant independent predictors for gluten avoidance were Christchurch site (OR 2.2, 95% CI 1.02 to 4.7), prior testing for CD (OR 9.0, 95% CI 4.1 to 19.5) and doctor-diagnosed lactose intolerance (OR 5.2, 95% CI 2.0 to 13.9).


CD affected 1% of these New Zealand children, but 5% reported gluten avoidance. The predictors of gluten avoidance in children without doctor-diagnosed CD suggest important regional differences in community belief or medical practice regarding implementation of gluten avoidance and the contributory role of non-specific subjective abdominal complaints.

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