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The Ongoing Controversy: Should You Eat Oats Or Not?

oatsSometimes I feel as if I like to punish myself. I will start researching a particular ingredient, read scientific studies and visit all the internet sites related to gluten intolerance I can find. The result is often complete and total confusion!

Science is not my favorite subject, but at times I feel as if I need a chemistry degree in order to protect myself. If you don’t understand the lingo, how on earth can you understand the message?

For example, In the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Vol. 74, No. 1, 137-140, July 2001) the conclusions of a study said the following: “Because the in vitro challenge with PT-avenin and its C fraction did not induce EMA production in treated celiac disease patients, it appears that oats have no harmful effect on celiac disease. Therefore, oats can be safely included in a gluten-free diet.”

Of course, I latched on to the last sentence, that Celiacs can eat oats, because I used to love oatmeal, oat bread and oatmeal cookies. I also have little idea what PT-avenin or C fraction is and don’t really care to be honest.

For years, oats have been included on the list of forbidden starches. Now there was hope! But I am also terrified of eating the wrong foods thinking they are safe, so I kept reading.

As it turns out, it appears from studies that oats really are safe for Celiacs to eat with one caveat. They must be PURE and UNCONTAMINATED if a Celiac is to tolerate oats in their diet. However, when I kept reading, it also says that “A small number of Individuals with Celiac disease many not tolerate even pure, uncontaminated oats.”

The problem is two-fold as I see it:

  1. I want to eat oats again, but how am I going to know for a fact that the oats I buy are “pure and uncontaminated”?
  2. And how do I know that additional studies won’t show that the first studies are wrong since some Celiacs remain intolerant of oats? I decided I am back to the “better safe than sorry” stand I have taken, because it seems to be keeping me healthy.

What you have to be worried about is cross-contamination. Oat products are frequently contaminated with wheat, barley, rye, spelt and other gluten containing grains. For an oat product to be considered pure means it is only oats and has not been mixed with or exposed to other grains containing gluten.

This leads back to the proposed gluten free labeling rules being proposed by the Food and Drug Administration. Once the label laws are determined, oats that really are pure and uncontaminated can be labeled as gluten free.  When I see a bag of oats that says “gluten free” and “pure and uncontaminated” AFTER the FDA passes the “gluten free” labeling rules, then I will feel comfortable eating oats. Personally, I would like to see a lot more studies done concerning the safety of oats for Celiacs.

Until then, no oat eating for me and I suggest you don’t take any chances with your health either.

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