Health and Nutrition Benefits of Oats

My husband loves oatmeal and recently asked me to replenish his supply.  We don't use "quick oats", but the thicker cut grains that take at least 5 minutes or more to cook, "old fashioned" oats as they are called by some.  My husband is a diabetic and had a heart attack a few years ago, so the following information and studies were encouraging to me.  I hope this this is helpful to you also.

Oats are a nutritious whole grain that can help to prevent heart disease and diabetes.  Oats contain a special type of fiber that is called beta-glucan.  Studies dating back over 40 years have consistently shown the beneficial effects of beta-glucan on cholesterol levels.   In individuals with cholesterol above 220, consuming only 3 grams of soluble oat fiber per day (an amount found in one bowl of oatmeal) typically lowers total cholesterol by 8-23%.  Each 1% drop in cholesterol equates to a 2% decrease in the risk of developing heart disease. Now that is an easy way to take care of your heart. 


Studies also show that beta-glucan has beneficial effects in diabetes. Type 2 diabetics who ate foods high in this type of oat fiber such as oatmeal or oat bran experienced much lower rises in blood sugar compared to those who were ate processed foods. Starting out your day with oats may make it easier to keep blood sugar levels under control the rest of the day, especially when the rest of your day is also includes other whole foods that are rich in fiber. 

More recently, researchers from the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, Boston, report that oats may have another heart protective quality.   Their findings were reported in Journal of Nutrition a few years ago in June of 2007, and indicate that oats contain unique antioxidant compounds called avenanthramides. These special antioxidant compounds help prevent free radicals from damaging LDL cholesterol thereby reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.  

In another study also conducted at Tufts and published in the journal Atherosclerosis, researchers exposed human arterial wall cells to purified avenenthramides from oats for 24 hours, and found that these oat phenols significantly suppressed the production of several types of molecules which cause arteries to become clogged.

Updated 1/17/13

Image Credit: Unhulled Oats - Wikimedia Commons 

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