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Are Oats and Oatmeal Gluten-Free?

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Are Oats and Oatmeal Gluten-Free?

Oats are a highly nutritious grain with many health benefits. However, there is a lot of confusion about whether oats and oatmeal contain gluten.

Oats are naturally gluten-free, but often get contaminated with gluten from other grains.


Oats are a good source of many nutrients that are lacking in a gluten-free diet.

This article explores whether you should include oats in a gluten-free diet.

What's the Problem With Gluten?

Gluten-free diets are very popular.

In fact, surveys have found that as many as 15 to 30 percent of people in the U.S. try to avoid gluten for one reason or another.

However, many of those who avoid gluten don't even really know what it is.

Gluten is a family of proteins found in grains such as wheat, rye and barley. These proteins give bread and pasta their stretchy, chewy texture (1, 2, 3, 4).

Unfortunately, these proteins can cause serious health problems for certain people.

For some, gluten can be a tricky protein to digest. This may be because its unique amino acid structure can actually make it harder for the digestive enzymes in the gut to break it down (1, 2, 3, 4).

If you have celiac disease, your body launches an autoimmune response to gluten, damaging the lining of the intestine. In wheat allergy, the immune system overreacts to the presence of wheat proteins (5).

It should be noted that most people can eat gluten without any problems.

Yet for those sensitive to gluten, even a tiny amount can make them sick. A gluten-free diet is the only way for these people to avoid serious health issues (5, 6, 7, 8).

For more details about the protein gluten, read this article.

Bottom Line: Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Most people can tolerate it, but it can cause serious health issues for some individuals.

Are Oats Gluten-Free?

The truth is that pure oats are gluten-free and safe for most people with gluten intolerance.

However, oats are often contaminated with gluten because they may be processed in the same facilities as gluten-containing grains like wheat, rye and barley.

Studies show that most people with celiac disease or wheat allergy can eat 50–100 grams of pure oats per day without adverse effects (9, 10, 11, 12, 13).

One study followed 106 celiac disease patients for 8 years. More than half of the participants ate oats daily and none experienced negative effects (10, 14).

Additionally, a few studies found that celiac disease patients in countries that recommended including oats in a gluten-free diet had better intestinal healing than patients in countries that did not (10, 15).

Since pure oats are gluten-free, they're usually safe for people with a wheat allergy as long as they're not contaminated with wheat.

Bottom Line: Most people who are gluten intolerant can safely eat pure oats. This includes people with celiac disease.

Oats are Often Contaminated with Gluten

Although oats themselves don't contain gluten, they're often grown alongside other crops.

The same equipment is typically used to harvest crops in neighboring fields, which leads to cross-contamination if one of those crops contains gluten.

Products made with oats are also usually processed in the same facilities as gluten-containing products and are prepared and packaged with the same equipment.

Therefore, it's not surprising that studies analyzing regular oat products found levels of gluten far exceeding the standard for gluten-free foods (16, 17, 18).

One study analyzed 109 oat-containing products on the market in the U.S., Canada and Europe. It found the products contained more than 200 parts per million (ppm) of gluten, on average (16, 19).

That may not sound like a lot, but just 20 ppm of gluten may be enough to cause a reaction in someone with celiac disease (16).

This high risk of contamination means it's not safe to include conventionally grown and processed oats in a strict gluten-free diet.

For this reason, a number of companies have begun to grow and process oats with designated gluten-free fields and equipment. These oats can then be marketed as gluten-free and must contain less than 20 ppm of gluten (20, 21).

Unfortunately, even gluten-free labels may not be 100 percent reliable. One study found that only 95 percent of products labeled gluten-free actually had safe levels.

However, 100 percent of the oat products passed the test. This means that certified gluten-free labels on oats and oatmeal can be trusted in most cases (16, 22).

Bottom Line: Oats are often contaminated with gluten during growing or processing, but many companies are now producing uncontaminated oats.

Oats Contain a Protein Called Avenin, Which May Cause Problems for Some People

Even with contamination ruled out, a small number of people with celiac disease (and possibly other conditions) will still not be able to tolerate pure oats.

Pure oats contain a protein called avenin, which may cause problems because it has a similar amino acid structure as gluten.

The majority of people who are sensitive to gluten do not react to avenin. They can eat pure, uncontaminated oats with no problems (23).

However, a small percentage of people with celiac disease may react to avenin. For these few people, even certified gluten-free oats may cause some reaction (16, 24).

One study investigating celiac disease and oat consumption found that most people had the potential to react to avenin. However, only 8 percent of the participants had an actual response after consuming a large amount of oats (25).

In those cases, the response was small and did not cause clinical symptoms or relapse. Therefore, the researchers concluded that it was still safe for those patients to consume up to 100 grams of pure oats per day (25).

Additionally, two other small studies found that some people with celiac disease experienced a small immune response and more intestinal symptoms when consuming oats, compared to those on a traditional gluten-free diet (26, 27).

Despite these effects, none of the people in these studies experienced any intestinal damage from oats (26, 27).

Bottom Line: Oats contain a protein called avenin. A small percentage of people with celiac disease react to avenin and can't tolerate pure oats.

Oats Have Many Health Benefits

Gluten-free diets are often limited when it comes to food choices, especially with grains and starchy foods.

Including oats and products like oatmeal or healthy granola bars can add much-needed variety.

Several studies have also shown that following a gluten-free diet frequently results in an inadequate intake of fiber, B vitamins, folate and minerals such as iron, magnesium, selenium, manganese and zinc (10, 28, 29, 30).

Oats happen to be a good source of all of these vitamins and minerals. They're also a fantastic source of fiber.

Additionally, oats provide several impressive health benefits:

  • Heart disease: Oats can help improve risk factors for heart disease, such as lowering “bad" LDL-cholesterol and raising “good" HDL-cholesterol (31).
  • Diabetes: Oats can help improve blood sugar control, blood fat levels and insulin sensitivity for people with type 2 diabetes (35).

Bottom Line: Oats are a good source of many nutrients that are lacking in a gluten-free diet. They can also add variety and provide health benefits.

Should You Include Oats in a Gluten-Free Diet?

There are many benefits to including oats in a gluten-free diet.

Oats are used in many gluten-free products and oat flour is popular in gluten-free baking. Oatmeal is also a breakfast favorite for many people.

However, it's important to buy only oats and oat products that are labeled or certified as gluten-free. This ensures the oats are pure and uncontaminated.

In the U.S. and Europe, products with this label are required to have less than 20 ppm (mg/kg) of gluten, an amount so low that it is generally considered to be safe (20, 21).

These days, it's easy to buy pure oats in many grocery stores and online.

Good brands to look for include Bob's Red Mill and Glutenfreeda, which are both independently tested for gluten contamination.

The decision to include oats should be made on an individual basis.

Since it's not possible to know who may react to avenin, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor or registered dietitian/nutritionist before adding oats to a gluten-free diet.

However, the vast majority of people can safely enjoy oats and all of the delicious foods made with them.

This article was reposted from our media associate Authority Nutrition.

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The world-famous wildlife broadcaster and his royal sidekick appear to have played an active role in the prize's inception, and media coverage has focused largely on them as the faces of the campaign.

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With more and more global attention on the climate crisis, celebrity endorsement of environmental causes has become more common. But why do environmental causes recruit famous faces for their campaigns? And what difference can it make?

'Count Me In'

"We need celebrities to reach those people who we cannot reach ourselves," says Sarah Marchildon from the United Nations Climate Change secretariat (UNFCCC) in Bonn, Germany.

Marchildon is a proponent of the use of celebrities to raise awareness of environmental causes. In addition to promoting a selection of climate ambassadors who represent the UN on sustainability issues, Marchildon's team has produced videos with well-known narrators from the entertainment world: among them, Morgan Freeman and Mark Ruffalo.

"We choose celebrities who have a lifestyle where they are already talking about these issues," Marchildon explains.

"Sometimes they reach out to us themselves, as David Attenborough did recently. And then they can promote the videos on their own social channels which reach more people than we do — for example, if they have 20 million followers and we have 750,000."

Environmental groups focused on their own domestic markets are also taking this approach. One Germany-based organization that uses celebrities in campaigns is the German Zero NGO. Set up in 2019, it advocates for a climate-neutral Germany by 2035.

German Zero produced a video in March 2020 introducing the campaign with "66 celebrities" that supported the campaign, among them Deutschland 83 actor Jonas Nay and former professional footballer Andre Schürrle. They solicit support as well as financial contributions from viewers.

"Count me in," they say, pointing toward the camera. "You too?"

"We are incredibly grateful for the VIPs in our videos," says German Zero spokeswoman Eva-Maria McCormack.

Assessing Success Is Complex

But quantifying the effectiveness of celebrity endorsement of campaigns is not a straightforward process.

"In order to measure effectiveness, first of all you need to define what is meant by success," says Alegria Olmedo, a researcher at the Zoology Department at the University of Oxford.

Olmedo is the author of a study looking at a range of campaigns concerning pangolin consumption, fronted by local and Western celebrities, in Vietnam and China. But she says her biggest stumbling block was knowing how to measure a campaign's success.

"You need a clear theory of change," explains Olmedo. "Have the celebrities actually helped in achieving the campaign's goals? And how do you quantify these goals? Maybe it is increased donations or higher engagement with a cause."

A popular campaign in China in recent years saw famous chefs Zhao Danian and Shu Yi pledge to abstain from cooking endangered wildlife. While the pledge achieved widespread recognition, both Olmedo and Marchildon say it's difficult to know whether it made any difference to people's actions.

"In life we see a thousand messages every day, and it is very hard to pinpoint whether one campaign has actually made a difference in people's behavior," she explains.

Awareness Is Not Enough

Many campaigns that feature celebrities focus on raising awareness rather than on concrete action — which, for researcher Olmedo, raises a further problem in identifying effectiveness.

"Reach should never be a success outcome," she says. "Many campaigns say they reached a certain number of people on social media. But there has been a lot of research that shows that simply giving people information does not mean they are actually going to remember it or act upon it."

But anecdotal evidence from campaigns may suggest reach can make an active difference.

"Our VIP video is by far the most watched on our social media channels," McCormack from German Zero says. "People respond to it very directly. A lot of volunteers of all ages heard about us through that video."

However, some marketing studies have shown that celebrity endorsement of a cause or product can distract from the issue itself, as people only remember the person, not the content of what they were saying.

Choosing the Right Celebrity

Celebrity choice is also very important. Campaigns that use famous faces are often aiming to appeal to members of the public who do not necessarily follow green issues.

For certain campaigns with clear target audiences, choosing a climate scientist or well-known environmentalist rather than a celebrity could be more appealing — Attenborough is a classic example. For others, images and videos involving cute animals may be more likely to get a message heard than attaching a famous face.

"We choose celebrities who have a lifestyle where they are already talking about these issues," says Marchildon from the UN. "You need figures with credibility."

McCormack cites the example of Katharine Hayhoe, an environmental scientist who is also an evangelical Christian. In the southern United States, Hayhoe has become a celebrity in her own right, appealing to an audience that might not normally be interested in the messages of climate scientists.

But as soon as you get a celebrity involved, campaigns also put themselves at risk of the whims of that celebrity. Prince William and younger members of the royal family have come under fire in recent years for alleged hypocrisy for their backing of environmental campaigns while simultaneously using private jets to fly around the world.

But Does It Really Work?

While environmental campaigns hope that endorsement from well-known figures can boost a campaign, there is little research to back this up.

"The biggest finding [from my study] was that we were unable to produce any evidence that shows that celebrity endorsement of environmental causes makes any difference," says Olmedo.

This will come as a blow to many campaigns that have invested time and effort into relationships with celebrity ambassadors. But for many, the personal message that many celebrities offer in videos like that produced by German Zero and campaigns like the Earthshot Prize are what counts.

The research may not prove this conclusively — but if the public believes a person they respect deeply personally cares about an important issue, they are perhaps more likely to care too.

"I personally believe in the power this can have," says Marchildon. "And if having a celebrity involved can get a single 16-year-old future leader thinking about environmentalist issues — that is enough."

Reposted with permission from DW.

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