The controversy discussed – Do oats contain gluten?

The consumption of oats in a gluten-free diet is still a somewhat controversial issue.

One side of the argument states that oats contain gluten as well as other proteins, called avenins, which make them unsuitable for consumption by individuals who are intolerant to gluten. Research has indicated that a protein naturally found in oats (avenin) possessed peptide sequences closely resembling wheat gluten and caused mucosal inflammation in significant numbers of celiac disease sufferers.

Whereas the other side state that oats in themselves are gluten free, but they are virtually always contaminated by other grains during distribution or processing.

Given this conflicting information, excluding oats appears to be the only risk-free practice for celiac disease sufferers of all ages. However, medically approved guidelines exist for those celiacs who do wish to introduce oats into their diet.

People who are merely gluten-sensitive may be able to eat oats without adverse effects; because the level of gluten intolerance varies, you should consider this a general guideline, rather than a specific recommendation. Some people with gluten intolerance may be able to tolerate this amount of oats, while others may not be able to tolerate even a small amount. To determine your level of tolerance, consume only a small amount of oats at a time to see how your body reacts.

Some research shows that most coeliacs can tolerate oats and it may be that the reaction to oats in some individuals is due to contamination from gluten containing cereals, such as wheat, because of the conditions under which they are grown, harvested or transported. Only foods that have been tested to contain a level of 20ppm or less of gluten can be used in foods labelled ‘gluten free’.


Unless manufactured in a dedicated facility and under gluten-free practices, all cereal grains, including oats, can be cross-contaminated with gluten. Grains become contaminated with gluten by sharing the same farm, truck, mill, or bagging facility as wheat and other gluten-containing grains.

Different forms of oats

- this is the whole unprocessed oat and therefore contains all the nutrients oats have to offer that may otherwise normally be reduced during processing. Less processing also means less opportunity for contamination with gluten containing grains.

 cut oats – are groats that have been slightly milled and take slightly less time to cook then whole groats (approx. 30 minutes).

Rolled oats
– have been heated and rolled, this is where the oats lose some of their nutritional potency.

Instant oats – this is the highly processed oats, sometimes labelled as quick oats. These have lost much of their nutritional value and are a high GI food.



Arentz-Hansen H, et al (2004) The Molecular Basis for Oat Intolerance in Patients with Coeliac Disease. PLoS Medicine; 1(1).

Størsrud S, et al (2002) Adult celiac patients do tolerate large amounts of oats. European J of Clin Nutr; 57(1): 163-169.

Janatuinen E.K, et al (2002) No harm from five year ingestion of oats in celiac disease. GUT J; 50(3):332-335.


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