Is it OK for coeli­acs to eat oats?

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - BACKYARD BANTER -

Q: I’m a re­cently di­ag­nosed coeliac – I’m man­ag­ing pretty well but I’m con­fused about oats. Can I have these or not? – Ge­orgie.

There’s a lot of con­fu­sion around whether or not oats are gluten-free, the sheer vol­ume of con­flict­ing in­for­ma­tion doesn’t help this.

You may have no­ticed that oats la­belled as ‘‘gluten-free’’ are ac­tu­ally not avail­able in New Zealand (un­less im­ported). Oat­con­tain­ing prod­ucts la­belled ‘‘gluten-free’’ over­seas are of­ten la­belled as ‘‘wheat-free’’ in New Zealand, de­spite be­ing ex­actly the same prod­uct.

Gluten is the name given to a pro­tein in wheat, rye, bar­ley and oats that af­fects peo­ple with coeliac disease. It is a com­pos­ite name rep­re­sent­ing: gliadin in wheat hordein in bar­ley se­calin in rye avenin in oats. The cur­rent tests for gluten can mea­sure gliadin, hordein and se­calin, but not avenin, as it is a


slightly dif­fer­ent pro­tein. Avenin is an es­sen­tial part of oats, just as gliadin is with wheat. Oats will never be gluten-free (as in, avenin-free), even if they are de­scribed as gluten-free (as in, gliadin-free). About one in five (20 per cent) peo­ple with coeliac disease re­act to pure un­con­tam­i­nated oats. That is, they re­act to oat avenin.

While some peo­ple with coeliac disease and those who are glutenin­tol­er­ant can tol­er­ate oats, oth­ers can’t. I have found it is there­fore un­wise to ever ‘‘rec­om­mend’’ oats, as I would not want to rec­om­mend that 20 per cent of coeli­acs get sick.

Since we can­not pre­dict who is the one in five, and we know that dam­age can oc­cur in the ab­sence of symp­toms, I believe the best mea­sur­able con­tam­i­na­tion. But they still con­tain avenin.

Those with non-coeliac gluten sen­si­tiv­ity (those with gluten sen­si­tiv­ity who have tested neg­a­tive for coeliac disease) may ex­pe­ri­ence sim­i­lar symp­toms to those with coeliac disease, while lack­ing the same an­ti­bod­ies and/ or in­testi­nal per­me­abil­ity that the coeliac disease can create.

Al­though sci­ence does not yet un­der­stand all of the mech­a­nisms through which hu­mans can re­act to gluten (or per­haps other com­po­nents in grains), the same di­etary changes are of­ten re­quired to help al­le­vi­ate symp­toms. This is best guided by an ex­pe­ri­enced nutri­tion pro­fes­sional.

But in your case, Ge­orgie, given you have been di­ag­nosed with coeliac disease, the best ad­vice is to avoid oats.

Sup­port your sleep with Bio Blends Sleep Re­store, Dr Libby’s new plant-based nu­tri­tional sup­ple­ment. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit

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