Is it safe to consume oatmilk?

Katarina Mollo MEd, RDN, LDN
Q: I am aware there is much debate about oats, would it be safe for a person with celiac disease to consume oat milk?

Answer


The issues with oats and whether they are safe for people with celiac disease can be confusing, and recommendations are in constant flux. I would recommend reading through our information on oats and decide what is best for you in terms of what source/protocol of oats you want to consume:

https://nationalceliac.org/nca-stance-on-gluten-free-oats/

https://nationalceliac.org/celiac-disease-questions/are-oats-safe-for-people-with-celiac-disease/

It is recommended that people with celiac disease only consume oats that are labeled gluten-free and rigorously tested to contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten (1). The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that products labeled gluten-free contain less than 20 ppm gluten. However, oats have a high risk of cross-contact with gluten-containing grains.

Although products containing below 20 ppm have been deemed safe for people with celiac disease, keep in mind that ppm is a concentration not an amount, and you could easily go over the limit with an oat milk that tests within the gluten-free range depending on how much you consume. According to Tricia Thompson at Gluten Free Watchdog, gluten in liquids add up fast. A product at 20 ppm would contain about .57 milligrams of gluten per ounce (by weight), so 8 ounces would contain almost 5 milligrams gluten (2). Since the threshold for gluten consumption is around 10 mg per day, consuming oat milk could have the potential to add significant amounts of “background” gluten to the diet.

If you decide to drink oat milk, I would recommend to only choose those that are labeled or certified gluten-free. Those that are certified gluten-free by a third party are usually subject to more rigorous testing protocols than those that just have a regular gluten-free label. Check out how to do product research here.

In addition, I would be mindful of how much oat milk you are consuming, a splash in your coffee, or some in your cereal is probably ok, but drinking oat milk as a beverage will likely add significant amounts of gluten to the diet.

NOTE:  Always check with your doctor if it is ok to consume oats. Another issue with oats apart from cross-contact is that a small subset of people with celiac disease will react to the protein in oats (avenin) and will experience similar symptoms to celiac disease. Because of this, many doctors recommend to only introduce oats once you are stable on the gluten-free diet and antibody levels have normalized.

Resources:

NCA Information on oats:  https://nationalceliac.org/nca-stance-on-gluten-free-oats/

Here is a list of companies that use the purity protocol from Gluten Free Watchdog: https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/oats-produced-under-a-gluten-free-purity-protocol-listing-of-suppliers-and-manufacturers/

Read more on how to do product research: https://nationalceliac.org/celiac-disease-questions/list-of-gf-foods/

References:

  1. National Celiac Association/ Dennis M, Thompson T. Information About Oats. NCA Website. https://nationalceliac.org/nca-stance-on-gluten-free-oats/ Published February 2018. Updated 2021.
  2. Thompson T. Oat beverages and celiac disease: why we are a bit concerned. Gluten Free Watchdog Website: https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/oat-beverages-celiac-disease-why-im-a-bit-concerned/ Published April 5, 2021.

Note: This information is provided by NCA and Katarina Mollo MEd, RDN, LDN, NCA's Director of Education. This information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for personalized medical advice or replace any medical advice provided directly to you by your health care provider. No liability is assumed by the NCA or Katarina Mollo, MEd, RDN, LDN by providing this information.

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