The Place of Oats In a Gluten Free Diet – Part 1

Up until recently the oat grain has been excluded from the clinical gluten free diet mainly because of its amino acid sequence and reports from some patients of problems when incorporating oats on their gluten free program.

Maturing Oat Grain (Avena-sativa)The other potential problem is that because the oat grain’s size, shape and general appearance is so similar to that of wheat, barley and rye, the chances of cross contamination during harvesting, transportation, milling or processing is a factor not to be dismissed lightly.

On this subject of contamination, there is a company out of Wyoming that grow oats exclusively for the celiac community. Their oats are considered SAFE for those who are gluten intolerant because they are tested to be below 10 ppm by the University of Nebraska FARRP Laboratory. As a reference (although still argued by some as too liberal), the Codex Alimentarius gluten-free standards considers 20 ppm as a safe threshold for those with celiac disease.

More recently the results of a 5 year study was published in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, Volume 42, Issue 1 2007 , pages 54 – 59. This study showed that the patients with celiac disease who participated in the study, consumed oats over a long period of time without adverse immunological effects.

Biopsies and the accompanying counting of Intraepithelial CD3, TCR (IEL) and TCR (IEL) T cells showed no difference in densities between the control group and those who consumed the oats.

Does this mean that oats can be consumed by ALL celiacs without fear of repercussion ? The aforementioned study is too limited in scope to come to such a conclusion. It is certainly encouraging to most, who may have feared including oats in their diet, but it is also suggested that there may be a small subset of celiacs who are also sensitive to avenin, the protein component of oats. The general advice of the day is still to tread cautiously when considering the inclusion of oats in the gluten free regime, especially when symptoms of a reaction are severe.

I would personally be interested in seeing some scientific studies done on the effect of varied processing techniques as they are related to gluten sensitivities. Food preparation methods which include soaking, sprouting or fermenting in particular are known to initiate profound changes in the foods themselves. Could these changes be significant enough to render potentially reactive foods benign or even beneficial ? What a thought !

Many of these techniques, common place in years gone by, have largely been replaced by modern, pseudo-substitutes that often leave the food more denatured than enhanced. Could we be overlooking life-enhancing, traditional food preparation methods to our detriment ?

We’ll look more into this interesting subject as we expand into the upcoming Part II of this topic.
Till next time,Stay open, question and keep learning.
Warmly, Sven

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One Response to “The Place of Oats In a Gluten Free Diet – Part 1”

  1. » Blog Archive » Kitchen Notes For New Gluten Free Cooks – Says:

    […] immune response. Although the current standard varies, as mentioned in my earlier article The Place Of Oats In A Gluten Free Diet – Part 1, levels of around 20 ppm is considered a safe […]

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