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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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    Guest Robert H. Gibbs MD

    Posted

    It would be good to know just what manufacturers are using when they say they use an 'Elisa' assay for that does not define the epitrope that the testing antibodies have been formed against. Also the author should have noted that the people who did the study treated the proteins prior to assay with enzymes (gut enzymes like we have) and that could make their data more meaningful than the simple testing of an oat slurry.

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    A promising study. However, What's missing is, including the names of the different types of oats that were in the study. Then people can actually use this information.

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    I tried gluten-free oats and had the same symptoms as with wheat. I think that no matter what the general consensus is or what the science says, if there's any question for you personally, oats should be skipped.

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    Guest Kristin Jordan

    Posted

    Very informative! It's good to see the oat topic and celiac disease still being scientifically explored. I appreciate this article because it informs us that the oats "debate" in the celiac community is not resolved. I had a severe reaction to Bob's Red Mill certified gluten-free oats, two years after my celiac diagnosis and going gluten free. (It was my first time to try gluten-free oats, and I will never get near any type of oats again!) I had tried the oats at this time because the "consensus" out there (what I was reading about celiac disease) was that the gluten-free oats were safe for celiacs, and gluten-free oats are now in so many "gluten-free" products. Now I know better and read more comprehensive studies before attempting anything that might be dangerous to my health.

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    How much oats can you safely eat per day?

     

    "Catassi et al demonstrated that the ingestion of contaminated gluten should be kept lower than 50 mg/day in the treatment of celiac disease. Based on the reactivity of the G12 antibody against the different oat varieties and gliadin and on the results published by Catassi et al, the tolerance to the most toxic oats might be in the range of 2–20 g/day."

     

    Answer: 2g if you want to be safe, 20g if you're feeling lucky, according to the authors.

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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.

    I have such a terrible reaction to regular oats that I am afraid to try the certified gluten-free kind.

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    I feel like I just watched a season ending cliff hanger... Was there something of usable value here that I missed? Why post this article: for people to waste their time? It serves no use.

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    To quote from the original paper (linked to above):

     

    "Therefore, three groups of oat varieties could be clearly distinguished depending on their recognition by the moAb G12: a group with high affinity towards the antibody (OM719, OA729 and OE717), a group with intermediate recognition (OH727, OL715 and OC723) and another group comprising oats that were not recognised by moAb G12 (OF720, OR721 and OP722). The alternative anti-33mer moAb A1 also provided equivalent results (data not shown)."

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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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