We have been avoiding traditional porridge and all things oaty for a good while now.
But recently I read that oats do not actually contain gluten, despite their usual inclusion in the list of foods to avoid for the gluten intolerant.
Having scraped into the bin the soggy, uneaten remains of every single gluten free cereal on the market, I am more than keen to put porridge back on the family breakfast menu. So what’s the score?
I’ve done some digging and this is what I found out:
Studies conflict on the topic but the upshot is that oats are okay for some people with ceoliac disease and not for others. The problem is there is no way at present to predict who will and who won’t react. And that is why oats appear on all of those lists.
The reason for the reaction to oats in some people is that while oat protein, called avenin, is different, it does have a similar sequence to the toxic protein sequences found in wheat, barley and rye.
And then there is the other problem of contamination. Oats are often grown in rotation with wheat which means a percentage slips through. There is also the potential for contamination in storage, transport and processing. Because of this, most oats can’t be labelled gluten free.
People newly diagnosed with ceoliac disease are therefore advised to stay off oats for at least the first year of being on a gluten free diet.
Those who are gluten intolerant have a little more leeway to experiment. And given oats are considered one of the most nutritious grains, that is what I now plan to do.
[UPDATE: experiment was a spectacular failure. For the record, it seems to have the same effect as gluten on us]