Some quinoa varieties may be unsuitable for strict gluten-free diets, study suggests

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Some quinoa varieties may be unsuitable for strict gluten-free diets, study suggests

Related tags Gluten-free diet Coeliac disease Wheat Celiac disease

A new study has questioned advice to include quinoa in gluten-free diets for those with celiac disease, finding that some varieties may trigger symptoms.

The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition​, suggested that more thorough testing of different varieties of quinoa is necessary to ensure their suitability for those with celiac disease, after researchers found two of 15 varieties contained levels of celiac-toxic elements sufficient to cause an allergic response in a minority of gluten-sensitive people.

The researchers tested 15 different quinoa varieties, and four samples triggered some antibody reaction, although all had levels of gluten epitopes that were below the 20mg per kg suggested for foods that can be labeled as gluten-free.

“The current study highlights the importance of examining different cultivars as part of a comprehensive safety assessment of novel gluten-free products,”​ they wrote.

They stressed that most of the quinoa cultivars tested did not contain quantifiable celiac-toxic elements, and further research in celiac patients was necessary, rather than duodenal biopsy samples – as used in this research –to determine whether certain varieties of quinoa could elicit an allergic response in some individuals.

“Generally, quinoa is safe for patients with CD [celiac disease],”​ they concluded. “However, we observed large variability in the immune effects of protein, depending on the cultivar tested, as occurs in oats.”

More work is needed “to confirm the suitability of quinoa for patients with CD and to facilitate its full incorporation in the gluten-free market,”​ they wrote.

Quinoa is one of a handful of grains and grain-like seeds that is often recommended as an alternative to gluten-containing grains for those following a strict gluten-free diet. Native to South America and high in protein and a range of minerals, it may be an important source of certain nutrients for many celiac patients.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder with symptoms caused by consumption of gluten, the protein found in wheat, barley, rye and spelt. The only treatment currently available is complete avoidance of dietary gluten.


Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

First published ahead of print July 3, 2012 as doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.030684

“Variable activation of immune response by quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.) prolamins in celiac disease”

Authors: Victor F Zevallos, H Julia Ellis, Tanja _Suligoj, L Irene Herencia, and Paul J Ciclitira

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Implications of quinoa study

Posted by Peter Olins, PhD,

For me, the most important implication of this work is that the current testing method for "gluten" in food may not adequately represent the actual potential for a negative biological effects on celiacs.

We go into more detail in a recent article:

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Quinoa reaction

Posted by Joan,

I ate Quinoa occasionally.Then3or4 years ago, when I ate Quinoa my throat would fill with slime mucus and I would have to cough it up, not being able to swallow it or water. It happened once with cod fish. Have not had Quinoa or cod since.

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