Although whole grains have taken a beating in the media lately, oats seem to be the exception to the rule. In truth, most of the criticisms directed at consuming whole grains in such books as Wheat belly are simply not true or exaggerations of established facts. There is nothing about whole grains that is inherently particularly fattening, other than the calorie content. But some people do claim to have digestive problems related to consuming whole grains, which could stem from some of the natural constituents of whole grains. But oats don't seem to impart such problems, which probably explains why it's been a bodybuilding staple food for many years. But oats vary in their nutritional quality depending on how how much they are processed. As we will see later, the way that oats are processed can make a huge difference in such effects as insulin release and possible body fat accretion. In short, some types of oat products are far better than others.
One feature of oats that is frequently touted is that, unlike many other grains, oats are naturally gluten-free. Gluten is a type of protein naturally found in whole grains and is the subject of controversy. The claims are that gluten can promote all types of negative health effects in humans. Several books and many articles have been published about the alleged negative health effects linked to consuming gluten. While the entire gluten controversy will be fully covered in a future issue of Applied Metabolics, suffice to say for now that the gluten story is more complicated than it's portrayed to be. For one, some research suggests that gluten may not be the cause of common digestive problems, but rather a type of carbohydrate with the acronym Fodmap. This refers to a type of fermentable carbohydrate that is also contained in whole grain foods. They also exist in many other foods and can cause the typical symptoms associated with what's known as gluten insensitivity.
But while oats are naturally gluten-free, some commercial oat products are produced in facilities that also process whole grain products that do contain gluten. As such, some oat products may still contain small amounts of gluten because they are produced in the same food processing plants. Those that are concerned about gluten need to ingest oat products that are labeled "gluten-free." However, although oats do not contain gluten, they do contain another protein that is capable of causing intestinal inflammation. That protein is called avenin. From a medical point of view, the only humans who definitely must avoid all foods that contain gluten are those with celiac disease, which involves an inability to break down gluten in the body. While celiac patients are told that they can consume oatmeal or . . .