Many of us are familiar with the
idea that oats are good for heart health, but is it really true and how does it

Ten years ago the United States
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first food specific health
claim that oatmeal and other oat containing foods help prevent cardiovascular
disease [1].  Since then hundreds of papers have been
published reporting their findings about oatmeal and LDL or “bad
cholesterol.”  In general these studies
found that oats and oatmeal reduce LDL without effecting HDL “good cholesterol”
levels [2].   Therefore, eating 1 ½ cups of cooked oatmeal
a day could possibly help reduce ones risk of cardiovascular disease [1, 3].  So what is oatmeal’s secret weapon?
Picture from

The LDL reducing powers of oatmeal
come from a viscous fiber called beta-glucan [1-4].  During digestion the liver secretes bile, a
cholesterol dense liquid which aids in fat breakdown, to help dissolve the
oatmeal.  Then the beta-glucan attaches
to the bile so it leaves through the feces and cannot be reabsorbed into the
body.  As a result, the liver must make
more bile for digestion.  The live uses
cholesterol in the body which reduces the amount of free LDL circulating in the
blood resulting in lower cholesterol levels [1-4].  This is the magic of oatmeal.

Oatmeal is not just a cholesterol
lowering food, it also makes the body feel full for a long period of time and
reduces blood sugar spikes by the mechanism it reduces LDL [1-4].  And that is not all, oatmeal is consider a
good source of thiamin, niacin, folate, vitamin E, phosphorus, iron, magnesium
and zinc according to the European Commission [3].  With all these benefits, who could refuse to
eat it.

Now that we know how beneficial
oatmeal is, how can we get more in our diet? 
Oatmeal is generally easy to use and easier to mask.  Throw ½ a cup into soups or cookie batter; no
one will notice they are actually eating something healthy.  Buy bread made with oat bran or rolled
oats.  Serve a warm bowl of oatmeal for
breakfast or add ½ a cup to muffins or biscuits in the morning.  These are just a few ways to use oatmeal your
family will love.


1.            Retelny,
V.S., A. Neuendorf, and J.L. Roth, Nutrition
Protocols for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease.
Nutr Clin Pract,
2008. 23(5): p. 468-476.

2.            Andon, M. and J. Anderson, State of the art reviews: the
oatmeal-cholesterol connection: 10 years later.
American Journal of
Lifestyle Medicine, 2008. 2(1): p.

3.            Ruxton, C. and E. Derbyshire, A systematic review of the association
between cardiovascular risk factors and regular consumption of oats.

British Food Journal, 2008. 110(10-11):
p. 1119-1132.

4.            Queenan, K., et al., Concentrated oat beta-glucan, a fermentable
fiber, lowers serum cholesterol in hypercholesterolemic adults in a randomized
controlled trial.
Nutrition Journal, 2007. 6(1): p. 6.



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