In vitro tests indicate that certain varieties of oats may be harmful to patients with coeliac disease


Dr Marco Silano, Division of Food Science, Human Nutrition and Health, Istituto Superiore di Sanita, Viale Regina Elena 299, 00161 Rome, Italy. Email: address


Background:  The presence of oats in gluten-free diet is controversial. The aim of this work is to evaluate if different varieties of oats exert different toxicity in coeliac disease.

Methods:  Three varieties of oats were tested by two in vitro assay based on the known ability of peptic-tryptic digests of coeliac-active proteins to agglutinate K562 cells and to disrupt lysosomes, respectively.

Results:  Avenins from the Italian variety Astra and the Australian variety Mortlook were much more active than the Australian variety Lampton. Gliadin, digested in the same way, certainly displayed more activity than all three avenins, but rice (var. Roma) did not have measurable activity.

Conclusions:  The results indicate that some varieties of oats may be potentially harmful to individuals with coeliac disease and therefore should be excluded from the gluten-free diet required to maintain good health in coeliac disease. It is important to realize that constant, small amounts of active proteins in the diet, such as certain avenins, may prevent complete recovery of the intestinal mucosa in this disease.