The whole oats

Sometimes it pays to revisit things. If you re-watch a film that you haven’t seen for ten years you will find nuances and subtleties that you weren’t able to detect previously….or there is the chance that you will realise it is a steaming pile of ordure and wonder how you ever enjoyed it. A similar thing might happen with an old friend; reconnect after years apart and you will be reminded how much they bring to your life…or you may wonder how you ever managed to spend any time with this vacuous, self-serving piece of work. The point is that when you revisit something you rediscover it and that can be a good or bad thing. Just like you might reacquaint with an old film researchers recently decided to get back in touch with all the latest data on oats and what they discovered was good.

Oats may not be a sexy “superfood” in modern consciousness (you have to originate in the Amazon to have that label) but they do have a reputation somewhere in our thoughts as being good for us. To bring our thoughts on oats up to date researchers reviewed an array of old and new studies on this familiar food and found some very good news but one sobering thought as well.

It is widely known that oats are good for your heart so much so that in many countries formal claims have been allowed linking oats to better heart health. This review of the most recent studies in this area showed that oats and oat bran lower total cholesterol by up to 19 per cent and bad LDL cholesterol by up to 23 per cent. This is impressive when you consider that a 4-6 per cent drop in LDL cholesterol is considered to equate to a 6-18 per cent drop in cardiovascular disease risk. The review found that eating a 60 gram serving of oats can lower cholesterol significantly.

There is much written and said these days about the importance of the appropriate bacteria in the digestive tract for good health. This review found that the beta-glucan, unique polyphenols (avenanthramides), and resistant starch present in oats all benefit gut health and that the resistant starch in particular boosts beneficial Bifidobacteria in the gut. A review of 29 studies showed that oats can help relieve constipation and the review also makes the point that if not cross-contaminated with other grains, then oats can be consumed people with Coeliac’s Disease.

The review also reported a study from May 2014 (Nutrition Journal) which showed that eating a breakfast of whole oats led to less feelings of hunger later in the day than eating a ready-to-eat cereal that included oats. The boost in satiety was found to come from the higher levels of beta-glucan found in whole oats.

Unfortunately, despite all of these positive findings regarding oats and health the researchers noted an apparent decline in agricultural oat production, the presence of an array of plant pathogens that threaten oats, and climatic conditions that may make oat growing difficult. The researchers say that global food policies would do well to look at maintaining growth of this health-promoting plant and on an individual level maybe you should revisit good old oats as well.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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