Is Quinoa Really Gluten-Free?

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Quinoa is a South American grain with a high protein and mineral content that makes it a great option for those on a gluten-free diet. That is, until the publication of a recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Until now, no one has questioned the gluten-free status of quinoa.

The study tested 15 different cultivars of quinoa for their ability to elicit an immune response to gluten proteins. Of the 15 cultivars, levels of gluten were not detected above the 20 mg per kg used as the standard for labeling gluten-free foods. However, two cultivars, Ayacuchana and Pasankalla, were found to activate immune responses in the same way as gluten does in people with celiac disease.

The researchers liken their findings to those of oats, certain varieties of which can also elicit an immune response to gluten proteins. The researchers call for more studies, “to confirm the suitability of quinoa for patients with celiac disease and to facilitate its full incorporation in the gluten-free market.”

I have to say, this comes as a big disappointment. Although I have been avoiding most grains due to their ability to negatively affect a range of health parameters related to heart health, of all the grains, quinoa seemed to be one of the better options. Perhaps this isn’t so.

This week, if you are gluten sensitive (as many of us are), you might want to contact the manufacturer of your quinoa to determine what cultivar(s) they use. If they use Ayacuchana or Pasankalla, you may want to find another quinoa. In the meantime, this new research is sure to stir the pot. I’ll keep you posted as I learn more about it.

 

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