Researchers have known for more than 50 years that eating oats can lower cholesterol levels and thus reduce a person’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
However, studies during that time have focused on the impact of oats on levels of LDL (or “lousy”) cholesterol, which is collected in the walls of blood vessels and can cause blockages or blood clots.
There is growing evidence that two other markers provide an even more accurate assessment of cardiovascular risk: non-HDL cholesterol and apolipoprotein B.
These two markers are especially important for people with metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes, since they typically do not have elevated LDL cholesterol levels.
In a new systematic review and meta-analysis conducted by St. Michael’s Hospital in Canada, researchers find that eating oats can reduce all three markers.
The study is published online today in the British Journal of Nutrition.
Oats are a rich source of beta-glucan (a viscous soluble fiber) that seems to be responsible for the health beneficial effects. The first study, published in 1963, found that substituting white bread with oat bread containing 140g of rolled oats lowered LDL cholesterol.
In the current meta-analysis, the researchers looked at 58 clinical studies involving almost 4,000 people from around the world.
These studies assessed the effect of diets enriched with oat beta-glucan compared with controlled diets on LDL cholesterol, non-HDL cholesterol and apolipoprotein B.
The review found that diets enriched with about 3.5 grams a day of beta-glucan fiber from oats were found to modestly improve LDL cholesterol, but also non-HDC and apolipoprotein B cholesterol compared to control diets.
Overall, LDL cholesterol was reduced by 4.2%, non-HDL cholesterol by 4.8 % and apolipoprotein B by 2.3%.
Researchers suggest that it could be difficult for people to consume the recommended amount of oat fiber by eating oat meal alone.
They recommend people increase their consumption of oat bran. For example, one cup of cooked oat bran (88 calories) contains the same quantity of beta-glucan as double the amount of cooked oat meal (166 calories).
Oat bran can also be eaten as a cereal, used in some baked goods (although since it is low in gluten, the texture may be tough) or sprinkled on other foods.
News Source: St. Michael’s Hospital.
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