NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Despite some recommendations that people with celiac disease avoid oats, the results of a study in Finland suggest that adults can safely include moderate amounts in their diets.
Because the cornerstone of treatment for celiac disease is a gluten-free diet, patients are often discouraged from eating foods that contain oats.
But in a 5-year study of 63 adults with celiac disease, researchers found that those who included moderate amounts of oats in a traditional gluten-free diet did as well as patients on an oat-free diet.
Dr. Matti Uusitupa of the University of Kuopio and his colleagues report the findings in the March issue of the journal Gut.
The researchers had previously found that over 6 months to 1 year, oats showed no harmful effects on patients' symptoms or nutritional status and did not appear to damage the intestines. This study extends those findings to the longer-term, according to the investigators.
"I think that the evidence is now so strong that we can recommend oats for patients with celiac disease," Dr. Uusitupa told Reuters Health, noting that Finnish recommendations for patients now allow moderate consumption of oats.
"However," the researcher added, "oat products should be pure–that is, they cannot be contaminated with wheat, rye or barley."
Of the 35 study patients who were allowed to eat oats over 5 years, more than half dined on oat products twice a week or more. According to Dr. Uusitupa's team, patients in the both the oat and oat-free groups showed improvements in allergic response and in structural features of the intestines.
"Our results show that even long-term use of moderate amounts of oats included in a gluten-free diet in adult patients with celiac disease is safe," they conclude.
In addition, the researchers note, taking oats off of the "list of forbidden cereals" might improve patient compliance to specialized diets by giving them more food choices.
Dr. Uusitupa added that other research findings have indicated oats might be safe for children with celiac disease, as well.