People with celiac disease have to avoid most grains, but oats may be an exception as long as the oats are uncontaminated by traces of other grains. That’s according to according to a recent research review from McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada.
More studies are needed to see whether so-called pure oats available in the real world don’t provoke celiac symptoms. If proven safe, oats could provide celiac sufferers some of the benefits of eating whole grains that they miss out on following a gluten-free diet. Oats are a source of fibre, protein, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.
What is celiac disease?
Celiac disease is a lifelong autoimmune disorder that causes the body’s immune system to attack the small intestine when gluten – proteins found in wheat, rye and barley – is eaten. In celiac disease, even tiny amounts of gluten can damage the small intestine and interfere with nutrient absorption.
People with celiac disease are also at heightened risk of heart disease and some recent research suggests that might be in part because avoiding gluten causes them to miss out on the heart-protective benefits whole grains.
Safety of oats controversial in past
While oats don’t contain the same celiac-provoking protein found in other grains, issues have been raised regarding potential adverse reactions to oats by celiac patients, and this has preventing many people from adding oats to their gluten-free diet.
The first study suggesting that oats may be harmful for patients with celiac disease was published more than 50 years ago. Since then, the addition of oats to a gluten-free diet has remained clouded in controversy.
For the new study, the researchers set out to evaluate the existing evidence. They re-analyzed data from 28 previous studies that included oats in gluten-free diets for people with celiac disease. Eight of the studies were controlled clinical trials; the rest were observational.
No evidence eating oats caused symptoms
The researchers looked at any negative effects on symptoms or blood tests for up to one year of oat consumption.
They found no evidence that addition of oats to a gluten-free diet affected symptoms or activated celiac disease.
Although the consensus is that pure oats are safe for most patients with celiac disease, contamination with other cereal sources that may contain gluten needs to be avoided.
The purity of oats will depend on the country of origin and local regulations, and this is why we were surprised to see that most recommendations in North America are still based on studies performed in Europe, the researchers said.
People with celiac disease must first ensure that the oats they are adding are “certified gluten free” oats. Regular oats used in products labeled “gluten free”. such as some breakfast cereals, are not recommended for people with celiac disease due to the possibility of cross contamination with gluten containing grains during the processing of the oats.
Source: Gastroenterology, online April 18, 2017.
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