Oats are gluten-free?

Do oats contain gluten?

Pawel Malczewski
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Short summary

Recent studies have shown that oats don’t contain any gluten, unless they are contaminated with this protein from other gluten containing grains. For a quick answer click here.

Explanation

Since 1950’s, when wheat was linked to celiac disease, oats were also considered as gluten-containing cereals, and thought to trigger celiac related symptoms.

In the last 15 years, however, studies proved that oats do not contain any gluten.

A small amount of people with celiac disease have an adverse reaction to oats but the problem is in another protein present in oats, called avenin. Avenin contains amino acid sequences similar to that of wheat gluten.

That explains why some people with celiac disease have no problem with oats while others do.

It is estimated however that only 1% of celiacs react to a large amount of oats due to avenin.

Another problem with oats is that the grain is often produced and packaged by the same manufacturers who deal with wheat, rye or barley. That means that ‘contamination’ of oats with the grains with gluten is very possible even likely, making oats dangerous for people with celiac.

To be on the sure side, dietitians recommend that people with celiac disease should remove oats from their diet when they start the gluten-free regime, to give their intestinal lining time to recover. It might take about year or so. (1)Kasarda DD. Celiac Disease and Safe Grains. U. S. Department of Agriculture. Albany, CA. July 2003. Available here. (2)The University of Chicago. Celiac Desease Center. Do oats contain gluten? Available here.

There are many companies these days that offer uncontaminated, gluten-free oats.

Conclusion

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Unless contaminated, oats don’t contain gluten. The gastrointestinal symptoms from eating oats are most likely to occur due to a high amount of fiber or a reaction to avenin. If you have been diagnosed with celiac disease and decided to re-introduce oats to your diet under a supervision of a health professional, you should start gradually from a small amount and observe if any symptoms occur.

References   [ + ]

1. Kasarda DD. Celiac Disease and Safe Grains. U. S. Department of Agriculture. Albany, CA. July 2003. Available here.
2. The University of Chicago. Celiac Desease Center. Do oats contain gluten? Available here.

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