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Millet, amaranth, and quinoa deemed gluten free: Study

By Nathan Gray , 08-Aug-2011

Research investigating the immune reactivity of tef, millet, amaranth, and quinoa has confirmed their safety in the diet of celiac disease patients.

The research, published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, analyzed the immune activity of the alcohol-soluble protein fractions from two cereals – tef and millet – and two pseudocereals – amaranth and quinoa – in comparison to wheat gliadin to test their safety in the diet of people with celiac disease.

“Recently, the use of pseudocereals, in particular amaranth and quinoa …have been considered for the preparation of gluten-free food products,” wrote the authors, led by Dr Mauro Rossi from the Institute of Food Sciences at the National Research Council, Italy.

“On the basis of our results, all tested grains may be considered suitable for use in the diet of patients with celiac disease,” they added.

Gluten free diet

Celiac disease is not an allergy or food intolerance, but an autoimmune disease, where the body's immune system attacks its own tissues.

The autoimmune reaction is triggered by protein components of gluten (gliadins and glutenins) found in the cereals such as wheat, rye, barley and some oats.

Celiac disease is the most common food-sensitive gut disorder in humans, with an incidence as high as 1 in 100 to 1 in 300 among the European and North American population.

Rossi and colleagues noted that several cereals and pseudocereals are thought to be gluten-free and therefore celiac for use in the diet of people with celiac.

“However, the believed lack of toxicity for most of these cereals and pseudocereals was based on their taxonomical classification rather than a direct evaluation of their immunostimulatory activity,” they said.

Study details

The researchers analyzed the residual immuno-activity of the protein fractions from tef, millet, amaranth, and quinoa.

Rossi and his team reported that they did not find any significant cross-reactivity with the tested proteins

“Tef, millet, amaranth, and quinoa did not show immune cross-reactivity … or induction of early phases of immunotoxicity characteristic of celiac disease,” reported the authors.

“Most importantly, Western blot analysis confirmed the absence of cross-reactivity with gliadin for any tested protein fraction,” they added.

Source: Molecular Nutrition & Food Research
Volume 55, Issue 8, pages 1266–1270, doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201100132
“Immunological evaluation of the alcohol-soluble protein fraction from gluten-free grains in relation to celiac disease”
Authors: P. Bergamo, F. Maurano, G. Mazzarella, G. Iaquinto, I. Vocca, et al

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