Oats trigger fewer allergies and intolerances than other types of grain and are considered healthier. A team of researchers is finding out why by completely decoding the oat genome. From a genetic point of view, the trend food is proving to be a tough nut to crack.
Flakes, bran or milk - there are many products made from oats. The grain is considered healthier than other varieties such as wheat or rye. The complete sequencing of the oat genome, presented by an international team of researchers in the journal "Nature", also shows why this is the case. The grain contains fewer proteins, which correspond to the gluten in wheat, which is problematic for some people. The decoding of the genome will further improve the breeding of oats.
The researchers report in their article that oats have been deliberately cultivated by humans for around 3000 years. Like wheat, rye, barley or rice, the grain belongs to the sweet grass family. It has as many as six sets of chromosomes and more than 80,000 genes. For comparison: Humans only have a double set of chromosomes with around 20,000 genes. "Oats are a trend food - and from a genetic point of view a complicated grain," says Manuel Spannagl from Helmholtz Zentrum München, who was in charge of the study, in a statement from the institute.
Over a period of six years, the international team determined the sequence of the individual building blocks of the oat genome, identified the genes and analyzed the genome. Among other things, the researchers investigated why oats trigger fewer allergies and intolerances than wheat, for example. In wheat, the "glutinous protein" gluten in particular can cause symptoms in some people. Gluten intolerance - celiac disease - is a chronic inflammation of the mucous membrane of the small intestine, which can lead to abdominal pain and diarrhea, among other things.
The study confirms that oats contain fewer protein sequences that are known to trigger food allergies and intolerance, the researchers report. "Most celiac disease patients can therefore tolerate pure oat products," explains study co-author Nadia Kamal. There are also types of oats that contain even fewer of the problematic components than others. "The breeding and research of such varieties in order to be able to guarantee an even healthier/more tolerable diet for celiac disease patients is one of the aspects that the decoding of the oat genome is now making possible."
According to the FAO, oats rank seventh in terms of global grain production volumes. The researchers write that fewer insecticides or fungi and fertilizers are required for cultivation than with other types of grain. The new findings would further improve cultivation: "We have created the potential for new and targeted breeding," says Nick Sirijovski from Lund University. "Now we can combine traits for an even more favorable health profile, higher yields, better resistance to pests and drought, and most importantly, in preparation for climate change."