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Dr. Joseph Murray's Lecture at the September 5-7, 1996 Conference in Tampere, Finland

From an oral report by Dr. Murray; transcribed for the list by Ann Whelan, editor of the bi-monthly newsletter Gluten-Free Living. To subscribe, write to P.O. Box 105, Hastings-on-Hudson, NY 10706. Dr. Joseph Murray, one of the leading USA physicians in the diagnosis of celiac disease (CD) and dermatitis herpetiformis (DH). Dr. Murray (murray.joseph@mayo.edu) of the Mayo Clinic Rochester, MN, is a gastroenterologist who specializes in treating Celiac disease:

THE DAILY REPORT: The big story today from Finland is oats. There were two talks and several posters presented about the topic.

In the first talk, Dr. Risto Julkunen spoke about the Finnish five-year follow-up study in which oats were given to a population of well-controlled celiacs. They ingested an average of 34 grams, which is slightly over one ounce, daily for up to five years. The oats used in the study were specially grown and tested to be free of wheat, barley and rye. The researchers claim there was no difference in those allowed the oats and those who were not.

There was a second study presented from Dublin, and reported by Dr. Conleth Feighery. This 12-week study looked at a small group of patients with healed celiac disease to start with, who were given 50 grams of oats a day. Again, the oats were carefully screened and tested to make sure there was no contamination.

After 12 weeks, no effect was seen on biopsy or through antibody tests. The researchers also took 2 of the 12 participants and did what they called a micro challenge of 500 milligrams of gluten a day. Both patients got reactions, so the researchers felt that at least two of the participants were sensitive celiacs -- and they still did not respond to the oats.

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A poster from Italy showed biopsies taken from celiacs that had been studied in the culture plate in the presence of oats, which did show some effect on the biopsies. In other words, tissue from biopsies from patients with treated celiac disease were put in a plate and grown in the presence of oat protein, and the oat protein had an effect on the biopsies.

This sounded odd, so I made sure Id really understood what Joe reported and paraphrased: In other words, theyre seeing no reaction from oats within the body in some studies but this one showed a reaction outside the body? Yes, Joe said, this of course is puzzling. Continuing on the oats issue, a series of short studies from several places also showed what the Finns had shown in the body, i.e., no problem in the short term.

This is Joes summary on Oats:

Over the short term, in well-controlled, healed celiacs who are compliant in every other way, it may be safe for them to take oats that have been tested to be free of contamination of other grains. He also mentioned that there were a few studies showing that contamination of commercial oats may be common in several European countries.

(NOTE: I went to Digestive Disease Week in May, where I met several Irish doctors who have studied oats. I would describe their strong beliefs about oats as very adamant. They are adamant in believing that uncontaminated oats are safe for people with Celiac Disease. If all of this oats talk pans out as being acceptably correct to gluten-sensitive individuals in this country, that would seem to be pretty good news. Then, the next big challenge would be to figure out how gluten-sensitive people are going to get access to contamination-free oats. I, for one, will be all ears.).

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