According to a new, wide-reaching collection of scientific reviews published in the October 2014 supplement issue of the British Journal of Nutrition, oats may play an important role in improving satiety, diet quality and digestive, cardiovascular and general metabolic health. In the supplement issue, entitled "Oats, More Than Just a Whole Grain," scientists from around the world explore the oat from agriculture and sustainability to nutrition policy and opportunity and new insights in nutritional science that go beyond cardiovascular health.
"The British Journal of Nutrition oats supplement is a comprehensive compilation of scientific reviews written by a diverse group of international experts that showcase the remarkable role the oat plays in human health and agriculture," explains Jan-Willem van Klinken, MD, PhD, MSc, of the Quaker Oats Center of Excellence. "Not only does it enhance the understanding of the role of oats in health promotion from satiety to chronic disease, but the authors also identified future areas of research in agriculture and health that will help provide greater health benefits and increase availability worldwide."
While oats have been the focus of scientific investigation for decades, the supplement uniquely summarizes the developing science and technology around oats. In the supplement, new evidence is presented, while well-established benefits are further supported, in relation to human health, agriculture and food processing. Here are some of the noteworthy takeaways from the supplement:
Calorie-for-Calorie, Oatmeal is More Filling than Ready-to-Eat, Oat-Based Cereals
• According to the supplement, epidemiological evidence suggests that regular consumption of whole-grain foods is correlated with lower body mass index (BMI).
• Several studies outlined in the review suggested that eating oats helps reduce hunger and increase feelings of fullness.
• Similarly, recent evidence can be found in a study from the May 28, 2014 issue of Nutrition Journal. In this study, Rebello, et al., found that subjects who ate 217.5-calorie breakfasts of oatmeal with nonfat milk for their first meal reported less hunger, increased fullness and a reduced desire to eat more, compared to subjects given an equal calorie serving of ready-to-eat, oat-based cereal with nonfat milk.
• According to the aforementioned study and the supplement, satiety appears to be enhanced by the higher viscosity of the oatmeal beta-glucan compared to a ready-to-eat, oat-based cereal.
• Subsequently, researchers are looking into oat varieties with higher levels of beta-glucan to potentially amplify the fullness effects of oats.
Oats: A Unique Whole Grain That May Contribute to Digestive Health
• Whole grains are often recommended for their beneficial effects on the gastrointestinal tract. The role that beneficial bacteria in the human digestive tract play in human health is an area of great interest, with potential health effects ranging from immune health to reducing risk for obesity and chronic disease.
• Author Devin Rose, PhD, of the University of Nebraska, summarized emerging research regarding oats and the digestive tract.
• Rose concluded that the beta-glucan, resistant starch, and the unique polyphenols, avenanthramides, may benefit gut health and that resistant starch present in oats may specifically boost the beneficial bacteria Bifidobacteria in the lower GI tract.
• A review of 29 studies concluded that oats and oat bran might provide benefits in some cases of bowel disease (one of two studies on ulcerative colitis) and constipation (14 studies).
• The review authors note that oat products not crossed with other cereal grains that contain gluten (such as wheat) may be consumed by patients with celiac disease (11 studies).
Oats Improve Cardiovascular Health
• Review authors remind us that the evidence supporting the impact of beta-glucan fiber in oats on low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-C) and cardiovascular disease is so convincing that authorities in the United States, Europe, Canada and Japan have issued formal health claims about the role of oats in heart health. For example, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) support the claim that oat beta-glucan has been shown to lower/reduce blood cholesterol.
• A review of the most recent and compelling studies on oats and oat bran and cardiovascular disease risk factors concluded that oats and oat bran lower total cholesterol and LDL-C by respectively 2-19 percent and 4-23 percent; the effects are particularly prominent among people with high cholesterol levels.
• The study's lead author, Frank Thies, PhD, of the University of Aberdeen, wrote that eating a 60-gram serving of oatmeal might lower cholesterol significantly.
• To put it in perspective, an LDL-C reduction of 4-6 percent is estimated to reduce coronary heart disease risk by 6-18 percent.
• What's more, all forms of oats—oat bran, oatmeal or other oat-containing foods—appear to be beneficial.