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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    Effects of Various Kinds of Oats on Celiac Disease

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Celiac.com 01/08/2008 - Our recent article on oats brought a number of comments calling our attention to another recent study in which certain types of oats were found to be more beneficial, while others were more likely to be problematical.  There still isn’t any official definitive evidence one-way or the other as to just how safe oats are for folks on a gluten-free diet, though there are more studies of this nature being undertaken, and data collection and genetic mapping and testing help us to build a better picture.

    A team of Italian and Australian doctors conduced in vitro tests on three different kinds of oats. They wanted to see if certain kinds of oats showed any kind of toxicity in people with celiac disease. These tests showed that the Avenins of the Italian variety Astra and the Australian variety Mortlook showed a much higher activity than those of the Australian Lampton variety, while Rice of the Roma variety showed no activity. Gliadin which is found in wheat and rye showed the expectedly high levels of activity.

    Of the oat types tested in this study, the Lampton variety seems to be safer than either the Astra or the Mortlock. However, even oats that are “safer” must still be processed in a dedicated facility that is free of contamination and routinely tested to make sure they meet the minimum levels to be gluten-free. For oat products to be considered gluten-free, they must show less than 20ppm of gliadin.

    A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine by Trisha Thompson, M.S., R.D.,* showed that no commercial brand of oats were reliably gluten-free. In fact, nine of the twelve samples from three major brands of oats showed gluten levels ranging from 1,807 to 23 ppm.

    There are several companies who now sell "certified gluten-free oats," which are oats that are farmed, harvested, processed and packed using special methods to avoid cross-contamination with gluten during every step of the way. Gluten-free oats currently sell for around $4 to $5 a pound. These type of oats are typically tested for gliadin to less than 3ppm, and are thus considered safe for celiacs who are not sensitive to Avenins.

    As far as certain types of oats being better than others, it’s worth some checking, but I’m unsure of the availability of, say, the Lampton strain in America. Also, given the results of commercially available oat brands, the question of the conditions under which the oats were processed becomes very important. Previous studies have shown children with celiac produce significantly greater numbers on antibodies to oat protein than non-celiac children (Scand J Gastroenterol. 2003 Jul; 38(7):742-6).

    Many folks with celiac disease are looking to avoid contamination, as no one wants to suffer the unpleasant symptoms of a gluten reaction. Basically, people just want to know what’s safe and to be able to enjoy those items without worrying about getting sick. Since cross-contamination is such a problem of particular importance to celiacs, and since oats grown and processed commercially are likely not gluten-free, it would seem wise to start with gluten-free oats just to be on the safe side.

    But anyone looking for a definitive answer will just have to wait. And remember, as with so much with the gluten-free diet, you are the best judge of your own body.

    *Thompson T. Gluten Contamination of Commercial Oat Products in the United States. N Engl J Med 2004; 351:2021-2022

    Main article:
    Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology 22 (4), 528–531, 2007.
    Marco Silano, Mariarita Dessì, Massimo De Vincenzi, Hugh Cornell (2007).


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    An excellent article with good info about oats. I, personally, am not an oat lover and find the reliable gluten-free grain selection adequate for our family, so I see no need for oats in our diet. I do feel concern for other celiacs who have taken the 'oats are declared safe by researchers' judgment and added oats to their diets. If oats are safe only for 'most' celiacs, I am concerned that over long periods of time (perhaps years), most celiacs will develop intestinal damage without knowing or having symptoms. The Italian research certainly shows that we don't know everything there is to know about celiacs and oats and that we should be very cautious when making proclamations about what is safe for celiacs.

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    I think safe, uncontaminated oats in small doses are a great resource for celiacs who can tolerate them! I appreciate your point on how only you can judge your body, so even safe oats aren't for everyone.

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    I recently discovered that Bob's Red Mill is making a gluten-free Whole Grain Oat---found it at a health foods store in Champaign, IL. Bob's claims they're grown in dedicated fields, with clean dedicated packaging plants and Elisa testing done at harvest and after processing. I've eaten them several times without obvious effects, but then I have never had typical symptoms. Anemia led to my diagnosis.I'm not sure if I should keep eating the oats or not. It was such a thrill to find them.

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    I am pleasantly surprised to find another 'celiac' with little or no symptoms!! Poster #6 -Sherida Jett.

    My anemia caused me to have the scope & discover that I had celiac.

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    I was eating oats as a substitute for wheat and still having problems. After stopping completely my symptoms recede quite a bit. I am adapting to using corn and rice products more and more.

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    I have found that I am intolerant even of oats certified as gluten free, and get symptomatic immediately, although not as severely as from wheat or gluten foods. I have come to the conclusion that I am reacting to the oats themselves, and not to the level of cross-contamination. I'd be interested in learning more about the avenins, since i seem to react to them.

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    Thank you Mr. Adams for your very balanced handling of this topic. My son improved so much once we got him off the oats that I haven't wanted to even try the new specialized gluten-free oats (we don't miss oats, really - except granola used to be his favorite breakfast).

     

    But he is 15 now, so it might be nice to buy the safest batch just once and make a really great batch of crunchy granola....But then he would be reliant on me to make that for him ...So I had have hesitated - I didn't want to rekindle his love for granola if I wasn't ready to fulfill it... He's been gluten-free for almost 6 years now.

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    I was eating oats as a substitute for wheat and still having problems. After stopping completely my symptoms recede quite a bit. I am adapting to using corn and rice products more and more.

     

    I have found that I am intolerant even of oats certified as gluten free, and get symptomatic immediately, although not as severely as from wheat or gluten foods. I have come to the conclusion that I am reacting to the oats themselves, and not to the level of cross-contamination. I'd be interested in learning more about the avenins, since i seem to react to them.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in biology, anatomy, medicine, science, and advanced research, and scientific methods. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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