Who hasn’t enjoyed tucking into a warm, comforting bowl of oatmeal on a cold winter’s day? Whether consumed as a hot breakfast, in baked goods or as part of such healthy goodies as granola, this ancient grain boasts a long history of providing nutritious sustenance for man and beast alike.
One reason the oat is so beneficial is a fiber found in its outer covering, or bran- a heart-healthy substance known as oat beta-glucans. Now this valuable fiber is available in a supplemental form that can bring the benefits of oat bran to a wide variety of beverages, bars and other foods.
One of the most common causes of cardiac trouble is atherosclerosis. In this process, fatty deposits called plaques accumulate within arteries, including the coronary arteries that feed the heart muscle itself. Many factors cause plaque development, but one significant issue is the presence of excess cholesterol in the blood.
Your body makes its own cholesterol, which serves a variety of uses. But cholesterol’s fatty consistency means that it needs a partner, called a lipoprotein, to carry it through the watery bloodstream. There are two main types, low and high density (LDL and HDL). Of the two, LDL can become problematic if it’s affected by oxidation, a process similar to the rusting of a car. Oxidized LDL is prone to becoming trapped in plaque. HDL, the “good” kind to LDL’s “bad,” actually appears to help carry cholesterol away from the artery walls and back to the liver for processing.
Oat beta-glucans helps reduce cholesterol because its soluble fiber absorbs water, forming a thick gel in the digestive system. Not only does this gel provide a more lasting feeling of fullness, which helps curb overall calorie intake, it traps the cholesterol found in food and carries such dietary cholesterol out of the body. ln the same way, oat beta-glucans helps mop up some of the bile that your body pours into the intestines to digest fat. The liver uses cholesterol taken from the bloodstream to create bile, so this action also helps to reduce cholesterol levels.
Oat beta-glucans has proven its cholesterol-fighting worth in clinical research. ln one study at the University of Minnesota, 75 people with high cholesterol received either 6 grams of oat beta-glucans or 6 grams of a look-alike placebo. In the oat supplement group levels of both total and LDL cholesterol fell after six weeks, with reductions significantly greater than those in the placebo group (Nutrition Journal 3/07). And while lowering LDL is certainly a good thing, raising HDL at the same time is even better – something oat beta-glucans has been able to do (American Journal of Therapeutics 3-4/07).
Excess blood sugar, or glucose, is just as bad for the circulatory system as too much cholesterol. In several studies oat beta-glucans has moderated post-meal glucose increases, a key consideration for people with diabetes. When looking for an oat beta-glucans supplement, check to see how it is made. Only products that are processed mechanically, without using chemical solvents, from such whole food products as rolled oats or oat bran can carry a government-approved claim that they help lower cholesterol.
Concerned about controlling your cholesterol levels naturally? Oat beta-glucans may provide the solution you’ve been looking for.
Sources: Katie M Queenan, Maria L Stewart, Kristen N Smith, William Thomas, R Gary Fulcher, and Joanne L Slavin, Concentrated oat β-glucan, a fermentable fiber, lowers serum cholesterol in hypercholesterolemic adults in a randomized controlled trial, Nutrition Journal 3/07
Reyna-Villasmil N, Bermúdez-Pirela V, Mengual-Moreno E, Arias N, Cano-Ponce C, Leal-Gonzalez E, Souki A, Inglett GE, Israili ZH, Hernández-Hernández R, Valasco M, Arraiz N., Oat-derived beta-glucan significantly improves HDLC and diminishes LDLC and non-HDL cholesterol in overweight individuals with mild hypercholesterolemia, American Journal of Therapeutics 3-4/07