According to new research, adding quinoa to the gluten-free diet of patients with celiac disease is well tolerated and does not worsen the digestive disorder typically associated with it.

Quinoa is a highly nutritious grain that is traditionally recommended as part of a gluten-free diet - although some studies have suggested that so-called ‘storage proteins’ in quinoa can stimulate unhealthy immune responses in celiac patients.

Celiac disease happens when the immune system reacts to dietary gluten, which is a storage protein for wheat, barley and rye. It manifests as a digestive disorder primarily affecting the small intestine in people who have a predisposition or genetic vulnerability.

Patients with this disease have inflammation or irritation of their small intestine, which causes them difficulty in absorbing nutrients from their diet.

When food containing gluten arrives in the small bowel, the immune system reacts against the gluten. This causes an inflammatory reaction Why Chronic Inflammation is a Risk for Developing Diseases as You Age in the bowel wall that affects nutrient absorption, including micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. However, when gluten is removed from the diet inflammation is reduced or goes away completely and the intestine begins to heal again.

This study evaluated the effects of consuming quinoa in adult patients with celiac disease. A total of 19 patients were followed as they consumed 50 grams of quinoa every day for six weeks as part of their gluten-free diet.

Study researchers evaluated diet, gut and other health parameters in 10 patients before and after consuming quinoa including full blood count, liver and renal profiles. Iron, vitamin B12, serum folate and lipid profiles were also used to determine any effects of quinoa on the patients’ condition.

This study shows that daily consumption of up to 50 grams of quinoa was safely tolerated by celiac patients, although further studies are needed to fully understand the long-term effects of quinoa consumption in people with celiac disease.