Coeliac Australia Research Update | GF Oats

Research Update of Coeliac Australia


Last year I had a customer (not happy) when she saw this article in the Coeliac Australia Magazine.  I was very interested to read this, so I thought I’d share with you all.

It is great to see that there are some advancements towards recognising that uncontaminated oats may be labelled gluten-free one day.  It was, however, disappointing to read that they were asking for donations towards this study and they have not reached out to GK Gluten Free Foods for stock. Instead, they have imported oats from overseas which would have been a considerable cost.

As we have been complying and educating consumers in Australia for 9 years continually attempting to reach out to the Coeliac Society on a number occasions. To work with them, not against them.  All out efforts have been ignored to date and met with much resistance.  I look forward to your comments on this matter. (Article excerpt from the Coeliac Magazine Australia)


Research Projects

Last year Coeliac Australia announced $500,000 in funding to support three groundbreaking Australian research projects. The projects are diverse: discovering if hookworms may lead to a potential cure. Determining the safety of oats for people with coeliac disease. And the factors that may cause the gluten-free diet to fail.

Following is an update on the studies. Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research – Dr Jason Tye-Din. We are excited to bring this update and are very grateful for the support of Coeliac Australia and its members that has enabled these projects. We are also very appreciative of all the members who have participated in our studies. Without you, this would not be possible.

Below are two updates with further details to be provided once this work has been peer-reviewed and published.


Determining the safety of oats for people with coeliac disease

This issue is controversial. In Australia and New Zealand oats are excluded from the gluten-free diet (GFD). However, in the USA, Europe and the UK, oats are allowed as long as they are free of wheat contamination.

A recent authoritative review (Pinto-Sanchez et al, Gastroenterology 2017) declared that while contamination-free oats may be safe for most people with coeliac disease (CD), definitive studies are still required to resolve the issue.

It is an important question to resolve. As oats are a highly nutritious grain rich in soluble fibre and beta-glucan and may have positive health benefits. Its protein composition, as well as its vitamin and mineral content, is more favourable than other cereals.

Allowing oats into the Gluten Free Diet would provide much-needed fibre and overall increase the diet’s nutritional value. It would improve food choice and palatability. Potentially enhancing GFD adherence and quality of life. However, allowing oats into the GDF is dependent on definitive data confirming it can be done so safely.


So, why the concern with oats?

Oats contain a slightly different storage protein than wheat, rye and barley called avenin, which is similar to gluten. For some people with coeliac disease, avenin may trigger adverse symptoms or small intestinal inflammation.

Previously, we showed 1 in 12 people with Coeliac Disease develop abdominal immune responses to oats, almost identical to those seen after barley is consumed.

This project aims to determine if oats are safe for people with Coeliac Disease (and if so, whether a safe amount can be eaten). And if there is a simpler way to identify people with CD at-risk of oats toxicity. Which avoids the current cumbersome approach of eating uncontaminated oats for 3 months and assessing intestinal biopsies before and after.

We began this project by importing wheat contamination free oats, as none are available in Australia and it is vital we study pure oats. We have now assessed over 30 people with CD who have participated in a 3-day oats challenge to understand immune responses.

A subset of these participants is now undertaking a 3-month oats challenge to understand clinical effects. So far, only a small proportion of participants have had an untoward immune response to oats. Most have really enjoyed the oats and unpleasant symptoms are very uncommon. We are also undertaking tests on the oat proteins to see if we can identify safer varieties. We are looking forward to getting further data from this study that will hopefully provide a definitive answer to this long-standing question.

Do you think Australia should certify uncontaminated oats as gluten-free in line with other parts of the world?

Cheers Kylie



  1. Janeen Henschke 07/02/2018 at 9:43 pm - Reply

    I have been diagnosed as Coeliac for the past 22 1/2 years and Oats was the only grain of the 4 suspects that I didn’t react too. Both the Specialist Physician and Nutritionist told me that I could eat oats BUT to be careful and that If I showed any reaction to STOP! All I can say it thank goodness that today’s oats that I purchase are normally non-contaminated oats. Initially from the USA and now from Australia. Buy local. Buy Australian. I understand that the Coeliac Association has to be careful but please understand that there are a number of us who can eat Oats

  2. Andrea Shannon 07/04/2018 at 7:10 pm - Reply

    Hi I am on holidays in London and came across a new food product GF Oatcakes
    I am hypothyroid and coeliac.
    I had a severe reaction when I ate the biscuits and developed a rash on my trunk, abdomen arms and legs. The issue I see is that most people do not know if they are allergic to Avenin ( protein in oats) and when it is labelled GF it would be (and was) my assumption that it would be safe regardless.
    The reaction I had was very severe so I would hate to think what would happen if I ingested it again. So often when I am dining out people assure me “ it says GF on the packet” – well that is obviously not enough if products will be allowed to contain GF Oats

    • Kylie 25/04/2018 at 7:01 pm - Reply

      Andrea the term “GF” on packaging is NOT an industry standard. If products are gluten free, they clearly say ‘gluten free’ not GF. Uncontaminated Oats can be legally labelled gluten free in the UK, however some companies only test down to <20ppm not <5ppm like ours is. Yes some people definitely react to Avenin and unless you follow the testing protocol laid out by the Coeliac Society you won't know for sure prior to eating the product. I am sorry to hear about your reaction, you look as though you are one of the 1 in 5 the react.

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