Coeliac disease and gluten avoidance in New Zealand children

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Abstract

Objectives

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.

Design

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.

Results

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).

Conclusions

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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