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  • Diana Gitig Ph.D.
    Diana Gitig Ph.D.

    Should Celiacs Eat Oats? Depends on the Oat

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Caption: New study indicates that the type of oats matters for celiacs.

    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.

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    I thought most oats were the same but after reading your article I discovered that some oats are more toxic than others. This sheds a bit more light on the whole controversy concerning eating oats. Thanks!

     

    Angie.

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    The article may answer the question, but as a non-scientific person, I'd prefer a straight, non-scientific answer. So.....specifically what oats are safe and which are not? Just tell me, so I don't have to try and understand the science.

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    A good start. Now we celiacs need a list of which oats we can try eating, and which to avoid, by brand or at least by some consumer-visible guideline. Looking forward to seeing that, sooner than later. Oats generally can be so good for people, I'd like to resume eating them.

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    This study just confirmed why I have reactions to oatmeal. The oats I purchased from a reputable store were guaranteed gluten free. I tried 2 different manufacturer's of oats and had the same gut reaction. Since I am not willing to keep trying other oat types, oats are out of my diet.

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    I too had a terrible reaction to a reputable brand of gluten free oats. If there are specific oats which are less likely to cause a reaction, I'd like to know and would give it one last try. BTW, I get the same reactions from corn and soy.

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    Okay, so some oats are bad and some oats are good. That's great, but what type of oats fall under what category? I guess I don't like wasting my time on something that really doesn't give me any information.

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    This study may have confirmed why I seem to have no trouble eating all varieties of Nature Valley granola bars. Like Lisa stated, I want to see a list distinguishing between safe and unsafe oats/brands.

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    The science is still really new, so information about which oats are/are not safe is just not available yet.

     

    For now, the takeaway is still pretty significant -- First, that CC isn't the sole problem with oats / that some are inherently safer than others.

     

    Second, that there's a mistake in the commonly-held belief that some celiacs are just more sensitive to oats than others (even oats labeled gluten-free). This may be true, but it's also likely that some of them are eating oats that aren't gluten-free despite labeling to the contrary. Many of the antibodies used in testing/certifying are only able to recognize CC in oats, not the gluten inside some oats -- these scientists used a different, new antibody (G12) that is so far the only one proven to detect CC-gluten and inherent-gluten.

     

    This is a preliminary study, it paves the way for future studies that will identify safe oats and lead to better testing and labeling.

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    Okay, so some oats are bad and some oats are good. That's great, but what type of oats fall under what category? I guess I don't like wasting my time on something that really doesn't give me any information.

    That is pretty much what I thought. If it doesn't explain the difference in which oat is which, why bother explaining the science behind it. I'm more interested in the bottom line I guess.

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  • About Me

    Diana received her B.A. in Biochemistry from the University of Pennsylvania, and then a Ph.D. in Cell Biology and Genetics from Cornell. Now she is a freelance science writer and editor in White Plains, New York.  Her son was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2006, at the age of five, and she has been keeping her family healthy by feeding them gluten free treats ever since.

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