Original Contribution | Published:

Colon/Small Bowel

Gastrointestinal Effects of Eating Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.) in Celiac Patients

The American Journal of Gastroenterology volume 109, pages 270278 (2014) | Download Citation



Celiac disease is an enteropathy triggered by dietary gluten found in wheat, rye, and barley. Treatment involves a strict gluten-free diet (GFD). Quinoa is a highly nutritive plant from the Andes that has been recommended as part of a GFD. However, in-vitro data suggested that quinoa prolamins can stimulate innate and adaptive immune responses in celiac patients. Therefore, we aimed to evaluate the in-vivo effects of eating quinoa in adult celiac patients.


Nineteen treated celiac patients consumed 50 g of quinoa every day for 6 weeks as part of their usual GFD. We evaluated diet, serology, and gastrointestinal parameters. Furthermore, we carried out detail histological assessment of 10 patients before and after eating quinoa.


Gastrointestinal parameters were normal. The ratio of villus height to crypt depth improved from slightly below normal values (2.8:1) to normal levels (3:1), surface-enterocyte cell height improved from 28.76 to 29.77 μm and the number of intra-epithelial lymphocytes per 100 enterocytes decreased from 30.3 to 29.7. Median values for all the blood tests remained within normal ranges, although total cholesterol (n=19) decreased from 4.6 to 4.3 mmol/l, low-density lipoprotein decreased from 2.46 to 2.45 mmol/l, high-density lipoprotein decreased from 1.8 to 1.68 mmol/l and triglycerides decreased from 0.80 to 0.79 mmol/l.


Addition of quinoa to the GFD of celiac patients was well tolerated and did not exacerbate the condition. There was a positive trend toward improved histological and serological parameters, particularly a mild hypocholesterolemic effect. Overall, this is the first clinical data suggesting that daily 50 g of quinoa for 6 weeks can be safely tolerated by celiac patients. However, further studies are needed to determine the long-term effects of quinoa consumption.

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We are very grateful to all celiac patients participating in the study.

Author information


  1. King's College London, Division of Diabetes and Nutritional Sciences, Department of Gastroenterology, The Rayne Institute (KCL), Gastroenterology Laboratory, London, UK

    • Victor F Zevallos
    • , Suzanne Donnelly
    • , H Julia Ellis
    •  & Paul J Ciclitira
  2. Departamento de Producción Vegetal, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Spain

    • L Irene Herencia
  3. Departament of Histopathology, St Thomas’ Hospital, London, UK

    • Fuju Chang


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Competing interests

Guarantors of the article: Victor F. Zevallos, PhD and Paul J. Ciclitira, MD, PhD.

Specific author contributions: V.F.Z., H.J.E., and P.J.C. conceived and designed the experiments. V.F.Z. performed the experiments. V.F.Z. analyzed the data. L.I.H., F.C., and S.D. contributed reagents/materials. V.F.Z. wrote the manuscript. V.F.Z., L.I.H., H.J.E., and P.J.C. made a critical revision of the manuscript.

Financial support: This work was supported by the Food Standards Agency PG1017.

Potential competing interests: None.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Victor F Zevallos or Paul J Ciclitira.

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