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    CEL-PRO on Oats


    Scott Adams


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    CEL-PRO on Oats

    The following is an edited version of some of the opinions of the CEL-PRO, which is a group of doctors who regularly discuss issues concerning celiac disease. Disclaimer - this is NOT medical advise, it is a general discussion of the oats issue. See your own doctor for application to your particular situation.

    Doctor #1:

    I will start off the oats discussion by commenting that this is probably the single most comprehensive study of the effects of a grain on celiacs. The earlier evidence for oats as a deleterious agent in celiac disease was based on a very small number of patients or case studies. Reading the report in the NEJM this week would suggest that oats are safe for most uncomplicated celiacs. There are however some reservations about the study. Severe celiac disease was an exclusion, there were some drop outs in both the oats and the control groups and patients with complications were excluded. If the findings are general to the whole population of celiacs then it would certainly make life a lot easier.

    I have a concern about whether oat flour is reliably free of contamination with barley/ wheat. Also what would happen if we challenged a celiac with high doses of oat flour, greater than the 50g used in this study. Also would oat flour protein produce any of the subtle changes seen in the rectum with enema challenge.

    Doctor #2:

    Here in Finland [where the NEJM study was done] there are mixed feelings about oats. Our colleagues from Kuopio have done a very good study, and in fact the study is on-going. Five year follow-up results will tell us more, the authors are this autumn re-biopsing the coeliacs eating oats. Within our Celiac Disease Study Group we have discussed this, and we are going to discuss the item within the expert team of the Finnish Coeliac Society. At this point I want to say some words regarding children.

    Today we are not going to allow coeliac children to eat oats. We are first going to perform a study, our ethical committee has accepted our protocol. We are also going to look at minor jejunal changes in the normal mucosa revealed by immunohistochemistry. Again, the oats producer will provide us the oats for the study (same deep-frozen tested batch through the whole study). If no harm is seen, oats will be accepted also for children and this is important in our country, we by tradition consume oats. Then another story is whether all oat flour products at our market are clean. This is a real practical problem and we will study this. As you probably know, in Ireland the oats was contaminated, Dr. Conleth Feighery and colleagues used in their study oats from a German producer, tested not to be wheat contaminated (from the fields and mills). The Irish study pointed at the same direction as the Finnish one (9 adult coeliacs challenged with 50 g of oats for 3 months), oats was tolerated. The authors also looked for immunological activation in the mucosa, no changes were seen (paper presented at the 8th International Congress of Mucosal Immunology, San Diego, July 1995, abstract Srinivasan et al. Oats cereal is not immunogenic in coeliac disease. Clin Immunol Immunopathol 1995;76 (part 2):S72).

    Doctor #3:

    The results of Kuopio group published in NEJM are probably changing our dietary recommendations. [The author of #1] has recently discussed the situation in children. The study has been carried out in adults, and in adults the demand to change dietary recommendations is strong, as we have noticed during the last days.

    I think adult celiac patients can switch to oats containing diet under strict follow-up. The amount of oats tolerated, the long-term effect of oats, and the importance of gliadin contamination has to be investigated, however.

    I recommend to my celiac disease patients that they should undergo gastroscopic examination 1-2 years after starting oats-containing diet. Some antecedent information of the mucosal architecture should be available as well. If not, a duodenal biopsy should be taken even before starting of oats. By this way we also can observe possible minor inflammatory changes such as an increase in IEL or alpha-beta T-cell receptor bearing lymphocytes.

    If this arrangement sounds too laborious, at least a strict follow-up by physicians and dietitians are essential. The follow-up comprises general well-being, signs of malabsorption and EmA or AGA analysis.

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  • About Me

    In 1994 I was diagnosed with celiac disease, which led me to create Celiac.com in 1995. I created this site for a single purpose: To help as many people as possible with celiac disease get diagnosed so they can begin to live happy, healthy gluten-free lives. Celiac.com was the first site on the Internet dedicated solely to celiac disease. In 1998 I founded The Gluten-Free Mall, Your Special Diet Superstore!, and I am the co-author of the book Cereal Killers, and founder and publisher of Journal of Gluten Sensitivity.

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    Scott Adams
    I am always amused by the argument that one grain or another is more likely to be contaminated than another, as I believe the real source of danger for contamination is found at mills and processing plants, and is more or less spread out equally for most gluten-free grains. Oats are often cited as having a higher chance of cross-contamination with wheat than other grains because it is often a rotational crop with wheat or barley, and kernels of these gluten-containing grains occasionally get mixed with the non-gluten grains. I do not understand why the same people who make this claim do no also include soy in this category, as it is one of the crops that is most commonly rotated with wheat.
    In any case, from the knowledge that I have gathered over the years about farming and processing grains, I must say that with most grains there is little likelihood of contamination due to the mixing of two different whole grains (i.e., the rotational crop hypothesis). This is due to the different sizes and shapes of different grains, and the machines which sort them after a harvest. If any grains do get mixed together the amount of actual contamination would likely be extremely low.
    In Trevor Pizzeys (Vice President of Operations for Can-Oat Milling) October 30, 1998 letter he expresses his belief that celiacs should avoid oats because he finds between 2.1 and 4.1 kernels of barley or wheat in every 4,000 (0.0525% and 0.1025% respectively). He says that this level can legally go up to a maximum level of 10 kernels per 4,000 (0.25%). In either of these scenarios we are talking about very low amounts. Even at these amounts the likelihood that a celiac eating these grains would eat 1 or 2 kernels of wheat or barley on a given day would be very, very low. Also, since most people who eat oatmeal tend to eat the whole oatmeal as a hot cereal, which means they can take very simple additional precautions to make their chances of eating any kernels of wheat or barley practically zero. The obvious way to do this is to look at the oats before you eat them or mill them and pull out any kernels that are of non-oat type.
    Now we turn to the other part of the argument to scare people away from grains that, taken by themselves, do not cause harm to people with celiac disease. This is the wheat dust in the mill (or during transport, or somewhere else) argument. There are many reasons, both health and safety, why mills take steps to keep dust levels down. Dust contamination is still possible, but I think we are also talking about even lower amounts that we were with the occasional kernel of wheat that pops up in oats, although there is no data that I know of to back this up. I think with whole oats (i.e., oatmeal) people can reduce any possible risk of wheat-dust contamination to almost zero by rinsing off their oats well with water before cooking or milling them.
    The famous oat study that was done in Finland and published in the NEJM used a source of non-contaminated oats to eliminate any possible factors that could ruin the results of their long and expensive study. It is possible that they could have used regular, uncontrolled Quaker oats for their study and gotten the same results, but again, the reasons for not doing so were to eliminate any possible factors that might affect the results of their study. This is the scientific process, and it is important with any study to eliminate any possible factors which could affect the outcome of the study.
    Last, there is a danger of contamination which comes from unclean equipment at mills, and at processing plants. This danger is present with any gluten-free grain, bean, etc., that is milled using the same equipment as is used to mill a gluten-containing grain. In other words we cannot speak of only oats with regard to this issue, as rice flour, soy flour, etc., could be contaminated equally in this way. Aside from legislation to require cleaning between milling runs, those who are worried about this need to buy flours from mills which they have researched and found to be gluten-free, or ones that adequately clean their equipment between runs.
    I think contamination issues are real, but need to be put in perspective with regard to other, perhaps more important issues, like labeling laws and getting agreement between the major celiac organizations in this country with regard to which grains are safe.
    See Also:
    Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Dec. 1997 v97n12p1413(4). Do oats belong in a gluten-free diet? by Tricia Thompson.

    Jefferson Adams
    Celiac.com 05/30/2007 - The results of a study recently published in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology shows that patients with celiac disease can consume oats with no risk of adverse immunological effects.
    An international research team made up of doctors Tarja Kemppainen (1); Esko Janatuinen (2); Kati Holm (3); Veli-Matti Kosma (4); Markku Heikkinen (5); Markku Mäki (3); Kaija Laurila (3); Matti Uusitupa (1); Risto Julkunen (5), set out to evaluate local cellular immune response after 5 years of oat consumption by adult celiac patients.
    The doctors looked at a group of 42 celiac patients who had previously participated in a 6-12 month oats intervention study.
    22 of these patients already incorporated oats as part of their gluten-free diet. During the 5-year follow-up study, 10 patients who were concerned about the safety of long-term oat consumption stopped eating oats. The 12 remaining patients consumed oats for the whole 5-year period. The remaining 20 celiac patients formed the control group, and followed a strict, conventional, gluten-free diet that excluded oats.
    The team conducted biopsies and counted Intraepithelial CD3, TCR (IEL) and TCR (IEL) T cells to determine corresponding densities.
    No Adverse Effects for Celiac Disease Patients Who Eat Oats
    The results showed no differences in the densities of CD3, IEL and IEL T cells between the oat and the control groups. The researchers concluded that the mucosa of the small intestine show no immunological response in celiac patients who consume oats over a long period of time.
    Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, Volume 42, Issue 1 2007 , pages 54 - 59

    Participating Institutions:
    Department of Clinical Nutrition, University of Kuopio and Kuopio University Hospital. Kuopio. Finland Department of General Medicine, Al Mafraq Hospital. Abu Dhabi, U.A.E. Medical School, University of Tampere and Tampere University Hospital. Tampere. Finland Department of Pathology and Forensic Medicine, University of Kuopio and Kuopio University Hospital. Gastroenterological Unit, Department of Medicine, Kuopio University Hospital. Finland About the Author: Jefferson Adams is a freelance health writer who lives in San Francisco and is a frequent author of articles for Celiac.com.

    Diana Gitig Ph.D.
    Celiac.com 03/14/2011 - It is still a matter of controversy whether or not oats are safe for people with celiac disease. The general consensus at this point seems to be that pure oats are safe for most, but not all, people with celiac. Since oats can easily be contaminated with wheat during harvest, storage, or other stages of processing, it has been stressed that the oats be certified as pure. Although the classic 33-amino acid long oligopeptide that acts as the immunogenic stimulus in gliadin had not yet been found in oats, other peptides isolated from oats do activate T-cells isolated from celiac patients. A new study performed in Spain by Isabel Comino et al. suggests that it is not that some celiac patients can’t tolerate all oats, but rather that all celiac patients can’t tolerate some oats. Their results are reported in the January 2011 issue of GUT: An International Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology.
    Dr. Comina and her colleagues examined nine different cultivars of oats. They exposed each of them to a sensitive monoclonal antibody generated to recognize the toxic 33-mer from gliadin, and also measured if each of the oat varieties could elicit an immune response in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from celiac patients. They wanted to see if they could correlate recognition by the monoclonal antibody to induction of a T-cell response, and found that they certainly could.
    The nine varieties of oats segregated neatly into three groups of three varieties each: those for which the antibody had high affinity, low affinity, and no affinity. This affinity was validated by two different experimental methods, so was not an artifact of the technique chosen. When T cells from patients with celiac were exposed to extracts of the oat variety the antibody bound to strongest, they proliferated the most and released interferon-gamma, an immunostimulatory cytokine whose aberrant expression is associated with autoinflammatory disease. In contrast, the oats that didn’t react with the antibody did not elicit these immune responses. The authors note that the avenin – the storage protein in oats – from even the most immunogenic oats they saw bound to this antibody with 40-400 fold less affinity than gliadin (from gluten – the storage protein in wheat).
    This study thus leaves us with two valuable conclusions. One is that some oats are more toxic than others, regardless of their purity. And the other is that reactivity with this antibody can be correlated to toxicity, making it a potential tool for evaluating the toxic gluten content of other food.
    Source:

    Gut doi:10.1136/gut.2010.225268

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