Adding quinoa to the gluten-free diet of patients with celiac disease is well-tolerated, and does not exacerbate the condition, according to new research published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology in January.

Dr. Victor F. Zevallos, from the Department of Gastroenterology, King’s College London, UK, evaluated the effects of consuming quinoa in adult celiac patients. Quinoa, a highly nutritious grain, is traditionally recommended as part of a gluten-free diet. However, in-vitro data suggests that quinoa storage proteins can stimulate innate and adaptive immune responses in celiac patients.

Celiac disease is an immune-based reaction to dietary gluten (storage protein for wheat, barley and rye) that primarily affects the small intestine in those with a genetic predisposition and resolves with exclusion of gluten from the diet.

“The clinical data suggests that daily consumption of quinoa (50 grams) can be safely tolerated by celiac patients,” said Dr. Zevallos. “Median values for all the patients’ blood tests remained within normal ranges, and triglycerides and both low and high density lipoproteins decreased.

“We also found a positive trend towards improved small intestine morphology, particular a mild hypocholesterolemic (very low cholesterol) effect. It’s important to note that further studies are needed to determine the long-term effects of quinoa consumptions in people with celiac disease.”

The study tracked nineteen celiac patients as they consumed 50 grams of quinoa every day for six weeks as part of their gluten-free diet. Participants were free to choose the cooking method for the quinoa.