Celiac.com 02/26/2014 - Quinoa is a highly nutritious plant from the South America that is often recommended by doctors as part of a gluten-free diet. However, some laboratory data suggests that quinoa prolamins can trigger innate and adaptive immune responses in celiac patients, and thus might not be safe for celiacs to eat.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons--Michael HermannTo better examine this issue, a team of researchers set out to evaluate the real-life effects of quinoa consumption in adult patients with celiac disease. The research team included Alberto Caminero, Alexandra R. Herrán, Esther Nistal, Jenifer Pérez-Andrés, Luis Vaquero, Santiago Vivas, José María G. Ruiz de Morales, Silvia M. Albillos, and Javier Casqueiro.

They are variously affiliated with the Instituto de Biología Molecular, Genómica y Proteómica (INBIOMIC), and the Instituto de Biomedicina (IBIOMED) Campus de Vegazana at the Universidad de León, the Área de Microbiología, Facultad de Biología y Ciencias Ambientales at the Universidad de León, the Departamento de Inmunología y Gastroenterología of the Hospital de León, and the Instituto de Biotecnología (INBIOTEC) de León, all in León, Spain.

The researchers looked at 19 treated celiac patients who ate 50 g of quinoa every day for 6 weeks as part of their regular gluten-free diet. The team evaluated diet, serology, and gastrointestinal parameters, and made histological assessments of 10 patients, bot before and after they consumed quinoa.

The team found normal gastrointestinal parameters. They also noticed that the ratio of villus height to crypt depth improved from slightly below normal values (2.8:1) to normal levels (3:1), surface-enterocyte cell height improved from 28.76 to 29.77 μm and the number of intra-epithelial lymphocytes per 100 enterocytes decreased from 30.3 to 29.7.

Results for all the blood tests remained within normal ranges, although total cholesterol (n=19) decreased from 4.6 to 4.3 mmol/l, low-density lipoprotein decreased from 2.46 to 2.45 mmol/l, high-density lipoprotein decreased from 1.8 to 1.68 mmol/l and triglycerides decreased from 0.80 to 0.79 mmol/l.

The results show that quinoa is well tolerated by celiac patients and does not worsen the condition. In fact, patients saw a general improvement histological and serological results, along with a mild reduction in blood pressure.

Overall, this is the first clinical data to indicate that celiac patients can safely tolerate up to 50 g of quinoa daily for 6 weeks. However, the team points out the need for further studies to determine the long-term effects of quinoa consumption.

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