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Oats by Donald D. Kasarda, Former Research Chemist for the United States Department of Agriculture

The following was written by Donald D. Kasarda who is a research chemist in the Crop Improvement and Utilization Research Unit of the United States Department of Agriculture. If you have any questions or comments regarding the piece, please address them to Don at: kasarda@pw.usda.gov

I have not seen the NEJM article from the Finnish group although I had heard second hand about a meeting presentation of the work. I have no reason to doubt the results. I am co-author of a paper from an independent study carried out by the laboratory of Dr. Conleth Feighery, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, and this study (paper submitted) also supports the lack of toxicity for a PURE oats sample.

I will remind people that it is EASY for oats to be contaminated with wheat both in the field and in processing.

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I have no reason to think that oats must be limited to small amounts, but, of course, it isnt good to focus ones diet too much on a single food, so moderation of the normal sort is probably good.

There are bound to be some people who are sensitive to oats, possibly through an allergic reaction to one component or another (just as there are people allergic to rice), but this sensitivity, on the basis of current results, seems unlikely to be celiac disease in its strict sense.

The term gluten in celiac disease is not used in a proper sense (in that sense it is present only in wheat), but rather as a shorthand term for peptides derived from prolamins (proteins) that include the harmful amino acid sequences found in wheat. These peptides set off (in an unknown way) a series of reactions that ultimately may lead to flattening of the mucosa, malabsorption, and possibly other effects as well. Wheat, rye, and barley have prolamins that contain the toxic sequence(s). The finding that oats is (are?) not toxic indicates that the key sequences are NOT found in the avenins, the prolamins of oats. Comparison of the amino acid sequences of avenins and gliadins yields clues to possibly important differences and I am pursuing the significance of these differences.

I am currently trying to find sources of pure, uncontaminated oats, and will post them here as soon as they are available. -Scott

  • The oats used in the Irish study (see Doctor #2 below) came from a company called Peter Kölln in Germany. The oats from this company were tested and found to be safe. Their address is:
    • Peter Kölln
      Postfach 609
      D-25306 Elmshorn
      Germany

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