Food and Behaviour Research

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18 November 2014 - Science Daily - New clue in celiac disease puzzle: Cause of oat toxicity explained

Melbourne researchers have identified why some people with celiac disease show an immune response after eating oats.

The researchers have identified the key components in oats that trigger an immune response in some people with celiac disease. The findings may lead to better tests for oat toxicity, and have implications for new treatments being developed for celiac disease.

As many as one in 60 women and one in 80 men in Australia have celiac disease, an autoimmune condition caused by consuming gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. The abnormal immune response to gluten damages the small intestine and is associated with gastrointestinal symptoms including vomiting and diarrhea, lethargy, and an increased risk of osteoporosis and cancer. People with celiac disease must adhere to a lifelong gluten free diet that excludes wheat, barley and rye.

The question of whether oats are toxic for people with celiac disease is controversial, but because oats contain proteins, called avenins, that are similar to gluten, oats are excluded from the gluten-free diet in Australia.

Researchers from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Monash University and US biotechnology company ImmusanT, led the 10-year study, published this month in theJournal of Autoimmunity. They revealed that oat consumption triggered an immune response in eight per cent of the 73 participants with celiac disease.