20-May-2022 - Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt GmbH

The oat genome unlocks the unique health benefits of oats

Why oats are healthier and cause fewer allergies and intolerances than other cereals

Researchers have succeeded in sequencing and characterizing the entire genome of oat. Compared to other cereals and humans, the oat genome architecture is very complex. Scientists from Helmholtz Munich, Lund University and the ScanOats network finally elucidated at the genetic level why oats are healthier and cause fewer allergies and intolerances than other cereals.

"Oats are not only a very popular cereal, but also a very complicated one, genetically" says Manuel Spannagl from Helmholtz Munich. As part of an international research project, he spent six years decoding and investigating the oat genome, and identified the entire set of genes contained in this important cereal. The complexity of the oat genome is a result of its size and structure: oats have six sets of chromosomes with more than 80,000 genes in total, while humans have only two sets of chromosomes with about 20,000 genes. Moreover, the order of genes along the chromosomes is substantially less “sorted” than in other cereals with a considerable amount of genes having been relocated between the chromosomes, resulting in a mosaic-like genome architecture.

Tracking down the health benefits of oats

Knowing the genome sequence allows us to better understand which genes are responsible for which traits. In the case of oats, the researchers were particularly interested in finding out why they trigger fewer allergies and intolerances compared to cereals such as wheat or rye. They discovered that oats have fewer of the proteins that correspond to gluten in wheat. Since these proteins are directly related to celiac disease and wheat intolerances, oats lead to fewer intolerances in humans. "This allowed us to confirm on a genomic level that oats in their pure form are suitable for a gluten-free diet," says Nadia Kamal of Helmholtz Munich. Compared to other cereals, oats also contain a much higher proportion of so-called beta-glucans. These dietary fibers reduce cholesterol in the blood and have a positive influence on people with metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes. Thanks to their sequencing effort, the researchers now know which genes are responsible for the health-promoting beta-glucans. 

New potential for breeding

Oats are not only interesting because of their health benefits; their cultivation also requires fewer treatments with insecticides, fungicides or fertilizers compared to other cereals. Thanks to the new insights into the oat genome, breeding and cultivation of more nutritious and sustainable oats can now be accelerated. "We have created the potential for targeted breeding," says Nick Sirijovski from the Lund University and ScanOats, "since we are now able to tell which oat varieties are compatible with another. At this point, we can combine traits for an even more favorable health profile, higher yields, better resistance to parasites and drought, and most importantly, in preparation for climate change." Since oats produce high yields even on marginal soils and have an overall smaller environmental footprint than wheat, these aspects are particularly exciting for researchers in light of future challenges in providing nutritious plant-based alternative foods for a growing global population in a sustainable way.

Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt GmbH

Recommend news PDF version / Print Add news to watchlist

Share on

Facts, background information, dossiers

  • oats
  • genome analysis
  • genome sequencing
  • sequencing
  • cereals
  • allergies
  • food intolerances

More about Helmholtz Zentrum München

  • News

    A Speed Limit Could Be a Breakthrough for Stem Cell Therapy

    Replacing sick or damaged cells with healthy cells: this is a major goal of regenerative medicine. One of the most promising approaches is cellular reprogramming, whereby one cell type in our body converts to another cell type. Research carried out at Helmholtz Munich and Ludwig-Maximilians ... more

    COVID-19: Breakthrough infection can substitute for a third vaccine shot

    According to a new study led by Ulrike Protzer, a breakthrough infection after two vaccinations achieves the same protective effect as an additional booster vaccination. According to the study by Helmholtz Munich, LMU and TUM, the decisive factor for immunity is that the immune system has h ... more

    A light in the dark tissue

    Biomedical imaging is the window through which we can look into organisms. It allows us to see cells, their behavior and localization that would otherwise be hidden. Tracking very few cells over time without damaging them is a key challenge in health research. For this purpose, Helmholtz Mu ... more

  • q&more articles

    Using deep learning to better understand blood disorders

    For a long time, doctors have been diagnosing disorders of the body’s hematopoietic system using a light microscope. The analysis of individual blood cells is largely performed manually. Now, artificial intelligence can lend them a digital hand. more

  • Authors

    Dr. Carsten Marr

    Carsten Marr, born in 1977, received his diploma in general physics from the Technische Universität München in 2002. He wrote his diploma thesis at the Max-Planck-Institute for Quantum Optics, Garching, Germany, and in 2003 visited the Quantum Information and Quantum Optics Theory Group at ... more

    Dr. Christian Matek

    Christian Matek, born in 1986, received undergraduate degrees in both Physics and Medicine in Munich. He then moved to the UK and finished his DPhil in Theoretical Physics at Oxford University in 2014. Since 2017, his main research interest has been applying artificial intelligence and mach ... more

q&more – the networking platform for quality excellence in lab and process

The q&more concept is to increase the visibility of recent research and innovative solutions, and support the exchange of knowledge. In the broad spectrum of subjects covered, the focus is on achieving maximum quality in highly innovative sectors. As a modern knowledge platform, q&more offers market participants one-of-a-kind networking opportunities. Cutting-edge research is presented by authors of international repute. Attractively presented in a high-quality context, and published in German and English, the original articles introduce new concepts and highlight unconventional solution strategies.

> more about q&more

q&more is supported by: