Proceedings of the Nutrition Society

Conference on ‘Malnutrition matters’

Symposium 1: Living with coeliac disease

The safety of oats in the dietary treatment of coeliac disease

The Annual Meeting of BAPEN with the Nutrition Society, Harrogate International Centre, Harrogate. 29–30 November 2011.

Emile Richman 

Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Royal Liverpool University Hospital, Liverpool L7 8XP, UK


Coeliac disease is a permanent inflammatory disorder of the small bowel affecting approximately 1% of the population. The only effective treatment that exists is exclusion of gluten from the diet. The present paper aims to review the literature as to whether oats are safe to eat for people with coeliac disease. Much data exist on the restrictive nature that adhering to a gluten-free diet imposes on an individual. If oats could be eaten, this would help reduce the restrictive nature of the diet. This in turn could lead to an increase in the quality of life. Oats are of high-nutritional value, providing a rich source of fibre, vitamins and minerals. The fibre source contains soluble fibre which is believed to help reduce LDL-cholesterol. A systematic review of the literature was conducted. Earlier studies conducted are difficult to compare as they used different methodologies and it is not known whether samples of oats in the studies were contaminated with gluten from other cereals. Many studies reviewed do not state the strain of oat used. Recent research has suggested that it may only be in certain strains of oats which could produce a toxic response to people with coeliac disease. In conclusion, research suggests that the risk from consuming oats may be less harmful than first thought; however, may vary according to the strain of oat. Handling that risk in clinical practice remains controversial.

(Online publication August 29 2012)

Key Words:

  • Coeliac disease;
  • Oats;
  • Gluten-free diet


Corresponding author: fax +44 151 706 5980, email