a1 Immunonutrition Group, Department of Metabolism and Nutrition, Instituto del Frio-ICTAN. National Research Council (CSIC), C/Jose Antonio Novais 10, 28040 Madrid, Spain
a2 Microbial Ecology and Nutrition Group, Institute of Agrochemistry and Food Technology (IATA)–National Research Council (CSIC), Spain
Celiac disease is an inflammatory disorder of the small intestine, triggered by the ingestion of gluten proteins contained in wheat, barley or rye, in genetically susceptible individuals. This disorder is considered to be mainly mediated by cellular immunity and restricted to the human leucocyte antigen-DQ presentation of gluten-derived toxic peptides to T-cells. Moreover, the involvement of innate immunity has been recently demonstrated to be necessary also for the development of intestinal tissue damage. Genetic susceptibility accounts for an uncertain proportion of the disease risk and gluten introduction works as the precipitating factor. However, currently, the research interest is also focused on environmental factors and gene–environment interactions, especially during the first months of life, which might help explain the onset of the disease. Infectious and dietary factors that could modulate the immune response orientating it either towards tolerance or intolerance/autoimmunity are the focus of primary attention. A significant number of studies have looked into the protective effect of breast-feeding against the disease. It is generally accepted that breast-feeding during the introduction of dietary gluten and increasing the duration of breast-feeding are associated with reduced risk of developing celiac disease. However, it is still not fully established whether breast-feeding truly protects with permanent tolerance acquisition or only reduces the symptoms and delays the diagnosis. Moreover, the timing and dose of gluten introduction also seem to be relevant and long-term prospective cohort studies are being carried out in order to elucidate its role in celiac disease development.