Nutritionists have been singing praises on the health benefits of eating oats for more than 50 years. Researchers have long known that eating oats can lower cholesterol levels and thus reduce a person’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Previous research on the benefits of eating oats had confirmed that it helps lower the level of harmful LDL cholesterol, which collects on the walls of blood vessels and can cause blockages or blood clots.
Now, new research is revealing that eating oats also reduces two other cholesterol markers — non-HDL cholesterol (total cholesterol minus the healthy HDL cholesterol) and apolipoprotein B, or apoB, which carries bad cholesterol through the blood — that provide an even more accurate assessment of cardiovascular risk. This was found to be especially true for people with metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes, since they typically do not have elevated LDL cholesterol levels.
Researchers say that oats are a rich source of beta-glucan, a viscous soluble fiber, which seems to be responsible for the beneficial effects. The first study of its kind, published in 1963, found that substituting white bread with oat bread containing 140g of rolled oats lowered LDL cholesterol.
The new study looked at 58 clinical trials involving almost 4,000 people from around the world that assessed the effect of diets enriched with oat beta-glucan, compared with controlled diets, on LDL cholesterol, and, for the first time, on non-HDL cholesterol and apoB as well.
Diets enriched with about 3.5 grams a day of beta-glucan fiber from oats were found to not only improve LDL cholesterol, but also non-HDL cholesterol and apoB, when compared to control diets.
Researchers add that since it could prove difficult for people to consume the recommended amount of oat fiber by eating oat meal alone, it is recommended that 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 or sprinkled on other foods.