There is a big question about whether people diagnosed with Celiac Disease can eat oats. Some studies suggest they cannot and others say they can. So who is right? The short answer is, they both are.
Oats do not contain the protein gluten the way wheat, barley and rye do. So, if oats do not contain gluten, why should a person with Celiac Disease may need to avoid oats? There are two reasons.
First, oats are often grown in close proximity to wheat and barley, both of which contain gluten. In addition, farmers rotate their fields so oats are often grown in the same soil wheat and barely have been grown on. Farmers also use the same equipment on the oat, wheat and barely crops. This creates a cross contamination. So even though gluten is not found within the oat, it is on it and this can be just as harmful to a person with Celiac Disease. If oats were grown completely away from wheat and barely and farmers dedicated their equipment to only the oat fields, they should be gluten free. It is possible to buy “uncontaminated’ oats from vendors who ensure their oats have not come into contact with gluten. But that does not mean that every person with Celiac Disease can start eating “uncontaminated” oats.
The second reason a person with Celiac Disease may need to avoid oats is because they may also have a sensitivity to avenin, the protein found in oats. Numerous studies have shown that a number of people with a sensitivity to gluten also have a sensitivity to avenin. Thus, when pure oats are consumed, they still exhibit the same symptoms as if they had eaten gluten. One study done in Norway found that even people who ate “uncontaminated” oats and didn’t show physical symptoms, still showed inflammation in their intestines. This study was done with a small number, 9, individuals, so the results are not 100% conclusive.
The bottom line, talk to your health care professionals if you think you might want to add oats into your diet. Most health care professionals recommend have your Celiac Disease under control before even attempting to add oats. Even then, they recommend eating just a small amount. They key is to make sure you are closely monitored.
You can read more about the Norway Study on WebMD.com.