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Oats help lower cholesterol, study finds

Monday 17th October 2016
Increasing oat consumption can help to lower cholesterol levels, according to new research. Image: malyugin via iStock
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People who regularly eat oats are less likely to have high cholesterol than those who rarely consume them, according to a new study.

Research published in the British Journal of Nutrition that was carried out by doctors based at St Michael's Hospital in Toronto, Canada, found that consuming just a few grams of oats each day could have significant benefits for a person's health.

The study was the first to conclude that the fibre naturally found in oats was effective in lowering three different forms of bad cholesterol - LDL, non-HDL and apoB. Analysis dating back to the 1960s has consistently shown that swapping wheat-based foods such as bread for oat-heavy alternatives can lower LDL cholesterol, but this new study marked the first time that the other two biomarkers were also taken into account.

To make this finding, a team of nutrition experts analysed data relating to 58 clinical trials involving around 4,000 people, all of whom achieved positive health effects after incorporating more beta-glucan from oats in their diet.

Overall, eating just 3.5 grams of oats per day was found to effectively reduce LDL cholesterol levels by an average of 4.2 per cent. What's more, increasing oat consumption helped to decrease non-HDL cholesterol by 4.8 per cent, alongside lowering apoB levels by 2.8 per cent.

Dr Vladimir Vuksan, lead author of the study, summarised: "Diets enriched with about 3.5 grams a day of beta-glucan fibre from oats were found to modestly improve LDL cholesterol, but also non-HDL and apoB compared to control diets."

With this in mind, dieticians treating patients for high cholesterol may wish to recommend that they add more oats to their diet. Dr Vuksan acknowledged that eating pure oatmeal is not the most appetising way to do this, so suggests that people increase their consumption of oat bran instead, in the form of baked goods such as flapjacks and cereal bars, or by eating porridge.

Written by Martin Lambert

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