Oats may be safe for people with Celiac disease (gluten intolerance)

February 19, 2002 in Gastrointestinal Health, Healthy Eating

Oats may be safe for people with Celiac disease (gluten intolerance)

Despite recommendations that people with celiac disease avoid oats, a study in Finland suggests that adults can safely include moderate amounts in their diets. Celiac disease is a digestive disorder that damages the small intestine and interferes with the normal absorption of nutrients from food. It arises from sensitivity to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats. The cornerstone of treatment is a gluten-free diet, and because oats contain gluten-like protein, patients are often discouraged from eating oat-containing foods.

But in a 5-year study from the University of Kuopio involving 63 adults with celiac disease, researchers found that those who included moderate amounts of oats in a traditional gluten-free diet did as well as patients on an oat-free diet. The researchers had previously found that over 6 months to one year, oats showed no harmful effects on patients' symptoms or nutritional status and did not appear to damage the intestines. This study extends those findings to the longer-term, according to the investigators.

Of the 35 study patients who were allowed to eat oats over 5 years, more than half dined on oat products twice a week or more. Patients in the both the oat and oat-free groups showed improvements in allergic response and in structural features of the intestines. The researchers believe their results show that even long-term use of moderate amounts of oats included in a gluten-free diet in adult patients with celiac disease is safe.

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