I recently wrote a long piece on oats in the gluten-free diet for Coeliacs Matter, in which I examined much of the available research on this subject.
In summary, many of the studies supporting the safety of oats were conducted on small groups, for short periods. Some relied on blood test results in the absence of biopsies to determine intolerance or tolerance to oats, and there remains the possibility that some potential volunteers, believing themselves intolerant to oats, may have not put themselves forward for trials, skewing the results in favour of the ‘oats are OK’ school. There is an absence of long term studies too.
I learned about two interesting new ideas. First, the relatively new concept of differing reactivity to different breeds of oats, and second, given that we already know that coeliacs have variable tolerance levels to gluten (be it 10mg, 50mg or more), and by extension, to the gluten grains, the possibility (probability?) that they have very variable tolerance to oats too - anything from 1g up to 100g or more.
This ‘sliding scale’ of tolerance to oats among coeliacs is an idea which appeals to me and which I warmed to while I wrote the piece, and there’s always a danger when that happens that it compromises your objectivity to a subject. So I shan’t say any more about it for now.
But I do want to explore it more deeply at some point, so, instead, some questions...
Because the reactivity of different breeds of oats appears potentially highly variable, would it be a help for coeliacs out there to know which breeds are less and more tolerable - and which breeds are used by the free-from producers who do use gluten-free oats? Is this worth looking at, do you think? These data may well not be readily accessible - I’d need to get hold of scientific papers, plus source information from the food manfuacturers themselves (or their suppliers), who may not know which breed they’re employing - but my hunch is it would be revealing.
I’m also interested in your experiences - if any - with oats. Did you try reintroduction after a year on the GFD? Did you receive the support you needed from the professionals to do so? Did you have biopsies? Or did you self-diagnose oat sensitivity?
Or have you decided to stay away from oats permanently? (Many do.)
I’m also curious as to whether those who endured years of non-diagnosis or misdiagnosis, with truly bad symptoms, are more likely to avoid oats than those diagnosed almost incidentally / who were virtually asymptomatic?
Keen to hear your experiences and thoughts ...