Safety of Adding Oats to a Gluten-Free Diet for Patients With Celiac Disease: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Clinical and Observational Studies

Gastroenterology. 2017 Aug;153(2):395-409.e3. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2017.04.009. Epub 2017 Apr 18.


Background & aims: Patients with celiac disease should maintain a gluten-free diet (GFD), excluding wheat, rye, and barley. Oats might increase the nutritional value of a GFD, but their inclusion is controversial. We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis to evaluate the safety of oats as part of a GFD in patients with celiac disease.

Methods: We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, MEDLINE, and EMBASE databases for clinical trials and observational studies of the effects of including oats in GFD of patients with celiac disease. The studies reported patients' symptoms, results from serology tests, and findings from histologic analyses. We used the GRADE approach to assess the quality of evidence.

Results: We identified 433 studies; 28 were eligible for analysis. Of these, 6 were randomized and 2 were not randomized controlled trials comprising a total of 661 patients-the remaining studies were observational. All randomized controlled trials used pure/uncontaminated oats. Oat consumption for 12 months did not affect symptoms (standardized mean difference: reduction in symptom scores in patients who did and did not consume oats, -0.22; 95% CI, -0.56 to 0.13; P = .22), histologic scores (relative risk for histologic findings in patients who consumed oats, 0.24; 95% CI, 0.01-4.8; P = .35), intraepithelial lymphocyte counts (standardized mean difference, 0.21; 95% CI, reduction of 1.44 to increase in 1.86), or results from serologic tests. Subgroup analyses of adults vs children did not reveal differences. The overall quality of evidence was low.

Conclusions: In a systematic review and meta-analysis, we found no evidence that addition of oats to a GFD affects symptoms, histology, immunity, or serologic features of patients with celiac disease. However, there were few studies for many endpoints, as well as limited geographic distribution and low quality of evidence. Rigorous double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized controlled trials, using commonly available oats sourced from different regions, are needed.

Keywords: Gluten Sensitivity; Histology; Nutrition; Symptoms.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Avena / adverse effects*
  • Celiac Disease / blood
  • Celiac Disease / diet therapy*
  • Celiac Disease / pathology
  • Child
  • Diet, Gluten-Free / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Non-Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome